Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Provenance and natural history collections
In natural history, provenance or context is expressed through voucher specimens. A 'voucher specimen' is any specimen that serves as a basis of study and is retained as a reference. In zoology, a voucher specimen is usually but not always a cadaver. As an absolute minimum, a voucher specimen consists of a specimen collected in the field under scientific controls that include data on the find spot, date of collection and name of collector. Any published record that is not accompanied by a detailed description and is unsupported by a voucher collection has an element of doubt attached to the veracity of the identification. 'Specimen' in zoology means the whole animal or a part thereof. (A voucher should be in an accessible collection; however, even if it is not, it remains a voucher.) To be optimally useful, voucher specimens should be lodged with a museum that can properly house and curate them and make them available for further study. A similar emphasis on provenance as the recorded context of recovery or collection also applies to fossils and botanical specimens.
Clear scientific documentation from the Endeavour voyage held in the UK and Australia supports the provenance of this botanical paratype as one of the first described species of Australian flora. This makes the specimen of great significance in this country's scientific and social history.
Herbarium specimen Angophora Costata, 133470 (Gaertner) Britten collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander at Botany Bay in April 1770
Photo: © Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney
This specimen of Angophora, held by the NSW Herbarium in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, was among the first examples of Australian flora to be collected by Joseph Banks and his botanist Daniel Solander at Botany Bay during the time Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour spent there in April 1770. It is a paratype, a specimen from a type series other than the holotype, which is a single specimen chosen to represent a new series by the first person to describe it. The holotype, as is the case with the vast bulk of the botanical material collected on the Endeavour voyage, is held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. Nevertheless, this paratype is of great importance in Australia, as it is accessible here, unlike the holotype held at Kew. It is of great significance in the history of Australian botany as the paratype of one of the earliest classified species of Australian flora. This paratype's provenance to Banks and Solander and the Endeavour voyage, considering the crucial role played by Banks in the foundation of the British settlement of Australia, also gives it enormous historical significance.