by Bonnie Isaac
Recently I received a call from a woman who had bought an estate and discovered a hidden treasure in the basement. The basement contained 28 boxes of herbarium specimens. These boxes contained the private herbarium of Charles Boardman. Boardman was a research associate of Botany here at the museum from 1951 until his death on January 5, 1983. He had built his own herbarium space in his basement. These specimens are already mounted and in remarkably good shape for having been stored in a basement unattended for over 30 years.
Amazingly enough, there was also a letter with the collection with some details about his life. Charles Boardman was born in Buffalo, New York in 1903. Mr. Boardman attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became a professional engineer. Charles was especially interested in mosses which led to his affiliation with Carnegie’s own Otto Jennings. Boardman accompanied Jennings on many field trips and collected specimens for the Manual of Mosses of Western Pennsylvania written and illustrated by Jennings. Boardman’s moss collection was donated to Duke University at his request shortly after his death. His vascular plant collection remained hidden in his basement until just a few weeks ago.
Most of the specimens are from the 1930’s and 1940’s collected from Pennsylvania and beyond. In the coming weeks and months, we will process this amazing gift to see how many specimens are in this hidden treasure and put them into the main herbarium here at the museum for researchers to use in the future. You never know where a historic treasure may be lurking.
Bonnie Isaac is the Collection Manager in the Section of Botany. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.