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Visiting the Herbarium

Protocols for Visiting WTU 
Protocols for Handling Vascular Plant Specimens 

The Herbarium is located in Room 30 Hitchcock Hall (Floor –1 on elevator key pad) on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Hitchcock Hall is in the southwest part of the campus, near the corner of NE Pacific Street and 15th Avenue Northeast. Click here for a map showing this part of campus.

Hours: The Herbarium is open Monday - Friday, 8am to 5pm. If you are coming from off campus, it is always wise to call ahead to make sure staff are not in the field or away from the collections (206-543-1682).

Parking: On-campus parking is expensive, difficult, and the rates increase annually. For the most current parking rates and options visit UW Visitors Parking. Two-hour metered parking can be found on the streets adjacent to Hitchcock Hall.

Buses: Many bus routes serve the UW campus area, and several buses stop right in front of Hitchcock Hall on NE Pacific Street. For bus route information visit King County Metro.

Tours: Reservations must be made in advance. Groups from on- and off-campus are welcome to come for tours of the Herbarium. Up to 20 adults can be accommodated; a tour usually takes 30 - 45 minutes. Students high school age and younger do not find the tour interesting unless it is part of a larger curriculum unit on botany, taxonomy, exploration, or the like. Please contact the Collections Manager to make a reservation.

Vascular plant collections in room 22.
Vascular plant collections in room 22.
Photo by David Giblin

Protocols for Visiting WTU

Please note: The specimens in this plant "library" are part of the global heritage of research plant materials. Herbarium specimens are fragile, and current use must safeguard their future availability and usefulness.

  • All first time visitors to the Herbarium must make an appointment in advance with the Collections Manager. On your first visit you will receive an orientation to the collections. A training session in handling herbarium specimens is provided for visitors with no previous herbarium experience.
  • Please sign the guest register.
  • Do not bring unfumigated (living or dead) plants into the Herbarium. Dried plant material must be fumigated on-site by freezing for 48 hours. Fresh material, if enclosed in sealed (i.e. ziploc) plastic bags, may be examined in the Herbarium if it is not removed from the bag. If you see evidence of insect infestation, please bring it to the attention of the Collections Manager or the Curator.
  • Smoking is not allowed in Hitchcock Hall.
  • Consumption of food and the examination of herbarium specimens is not allowed (see topic of “poisoned” specimens below). There is a work room suitable for eating adjacent to where collections are stored.
  • Do not remove specimens, books, or equipment from the Herbarium without permission from the Collections Manager or the Curator.
  • Please keep the herbarium cabinets closed when not in use.


Protocols for Handling Vascular Plant Specimens

General Use

  • Keep folders horizontal when removing them from shelves. Use stepstools to read labels of folders overhead; avoid the temptation to bend the folders down to read what's in them.Carry folders right-side-up. Do not turn on edge, on end, or upside-down. Place a folder on a table or other flat surface before opening it.
  • Keep herbarium sheets specimen-side-up at all times. Do not turn them upside-down, or flip them like pages in a book. Specimens in NORTHWEST folders are in no particular order; there are folders for each species or subspecies. Specimens in unmarked folders (from the rest of theworld) are in alphabetical order by species (e.g. Boerhaavia f - q). Take care that they are in order when you return the folder to the shelf.
  • Do not place anything (books, elbows, sweaters, or -shudder- pop cans) on top of the specimens.
  • Keep specimens in neat stacks, no more than 1 foot high. Avoid "shuffling". Dried plant material is brittle and will shear off at the slightest provocation.
  • Handle the specimens gently. If fragments do break off, and you are certain which sheet the fragments are from, please place them in the small packet attached to the sheet. If you need one and there is no packet on the sheet, please bring the specimen to the attention of the Collections Manager.
  • Do not write on the sheets (see below for annotations) and do not write on anything on top of the sheets.
  • Some specimens are labeled POISONED, or sometimes there is staining on the paper around the plant material. This is a remnant of former methods of fumigation, which involved the use of toxic chemicals, including mercuric chloride. We have been assured by the Department of Environmental Health & Safety that these chemicals are not volatilizing to an extent that would make the air here hazardous to breathe. However, traces of chemicals may adhere to your hands, so wash up after handling specimens, especially before eating or using the facilities.
  • Do not remove any material from the herbarium sheets, including from the fragment packets, without the Curator’s or the Collections Manager’s permission.


  • Make annotations on provided labels with permanent ink (not ballpoint). If you are annotating many specimens, you may paper clip one label as a sample to a folder of specimens and leave the folder on the table. We will print and attach labels to all the specimens in the folder. Old folders are available in the packaging room (room 30) and on the bookshelf in room 22.
  • Annotation labels, Pigma (permanent) pens, and glue bottles are available from the Collections Manager, and in the tool drawers in rooms 22 and 26. Rulers, forceps, needles, watch glasses, Pohl's solution (a wetting agent), and fragment packets are also available.

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