Plant Letters is a project of the UNESCO Chair in Biodiversity Safeguard for Sustainable Development of the University of Coimbra in collaboration with the Botanic Garden and the Department of Life Sciences of the University of Coimbra. For many centuries the exchange of letters was the privileged means of circulating information and knowledge. The Life Sciences Department of the University of Coimbra safeguards almost 5000 letters addressed to the directors, gardeners and other collaborators of the Botanic Garden. The main purpose of this project is to track plant species, locations and scientists in the correspondence of the Botanic Garden of the University of Coimbra received in the 19th and 20th centuries. To do so, we invite you to transcribe letters, handwritten or typed, received by the Botanic Garden between about 1870 and 1928, from more than 1100 correspondents from around the world!
The XIX century saw an enormous accumulation of biological specimens coming to Europe from all over the world, which are now part of museum, herbaria and other natural history collections. The records of Portuguese botanical expeditions of plant discovery, collection and identification are held in thousands of handwritten letters, species lists and assorted notebooks, in more than five different languages. We need your help to uncover the stories within these historical archives, the tales of travellers and scientists, in the quest for the recording of the world’s diversity, the catalogue of life. By transcribing the information contained in these documents, you will allow us to: track plant specimens as they travelled from their native countries to the scientists who named them; to determine historical plant locations in parts of sub-saharian Africa; to better understand the scientific processes of plant discovery, taxonomy and botany; to collect information that gives context to biological specimens in museum objects. All of these data, valuable to the present and future conservation of tropical flora, will be made available bearing in mind the open science principles.