adapted from an unpublished manuscript by Jack Rumely
Blankinship left the College in 1906 as a private consultant, and was replaced by the able D. B. Swingle, author of the Textbook of Systematic Botany (first published in 1928). Swingle was assisted by H. E. Morris, a botanist with the Agricultural Experiment Station, with curation and plant identification services. In 1922, Dr. F. B. Cotner, a mycologist, was hired and brought with him a large collection of fungi. With help from Swingle and Morris, Cotner greatly increased the herbarium activity, and established an accession record book for the College Herbarium. One of the most significant additions to the herbarium during this time was 20,000 specimens from the Pliny Hawkins collection.
W. E. Booth was appointed as curator in 1948, and continued the strong development of the herbarium that was seen in all previous curators. As evidence of this, Booth produced a Flora of Montana Part I (conifers and monocots) by 1950. He collaborated with Dr. J. C. Wright in producing Part II, Dicotyledons, which first came out in 1959, thus completing the first State flora for Montana. He also authored a locally produced manual of Montana grasses. During his tenure as curator, Booth accessioned over 30,000 specimens to the herbarium, thus almost doubling the size of the vascular plant collection. This number represents not only Booth’s collections, but also those of other individuals who Booth had encouraged to collect and contribute specimens.
In 1972, synchronous with Booth’s retirement, J. H. Rumely was appointed as curator, and the herbarium was moved to a new building, Leon Johnson Hall. With this move, the collections, now in 66 cabinets and each holding more than 1,000 specimens, were changed from the Dalle, Torre, and Harms classification system to one that arranged families alphabetically. Also with this move, the mycological section of approximately 9,000 specimens was turned over to the Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agriculture. This mycological collection was, unfortunately, destroyed over two decades by its use as strictly a teaching collection. The integrity of the research collection at the MSU Herbarium, in contrast, has been protected, in part, by the development of a strictly teaching collection by Rumely, which he continues today on a voluntary basis. These teaching collections are used in three large undergraduate plant taxonomy courses, Identification of Seed Plants, Plant Systematics, and Agrostology. Also, Rumely continues to curate the research collection, as he has done for the past 25 years. The Herbarium service of providing free plant identifications was maintained, even until today, by Rumely on a voluntary basis. During the early part of Rumely’s tenure as curator, the MSU Herbarium was designated as one of the primary collections for the computer data base of the Plant Information Network, a cooperative effort among the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado State University at Fort Collins, and several regional herbaria. The MSU Herbarium benefited by having for the first time a listing of all holdings by County.
In 1981, Dr. Sharon Eversman was hired on as a faculty member in the Biology Department, and brought with her a research program that involved the study of lichen diversity in relationship to air quality. She continues this research today, and has continued collecting lichen specimens from throughout Montana. Because of space limitations, only one herbarium cabinet has been designated to the lichen collection. Thus, only about 2,000 lichen specimens are housed in the herbarium, while Dr. Eversman continues to add to the collection of about 3,000 additional specimens that she houses in her office in Lewis Hall.
Matt Lavin was hired by 1989 as a faculty member in the Biology Department, and assumed responsibility as curator. Although his research program focuses on the systematics and biogeography of tropical Leguminosae, he has taken on four graduate students who are conducting floristic or biosystematic research on the flora of Montana. During the same year that Lavin was hired, the herbarium was moved from Leon Johnson Hall to a newly renovated room in Lewis Hall, the building in which the Biology Department is located. Also at this time, Catherine Seibert was hired as the Collections Manager of the Herbarium, Entomology, and Vertebrate collections. Ms. Seibert devotes essentially one-half of her time to the herbarium, and has been very affective in diverse tasks ranging from processing loans, attending to the many visitors, and data-basing the collections.