Smithsonian Gardens (SG) strives to support the Smithsonian Institution goal of promoting access through digitization by photographing the plants in our living collections. Our goal is to create digital surrogate standards for each collection item. Digitizing our orchid and tree collections provides a resource of images that can be used to represent physical specimens for remote study by researchers or as a record of a specimen appearance if damage or loss occurs. All of these professional photos are available through Plant Explorer. Smithsonian Gardens hopes to serve as a resource for North American orchid collections and other scientific research interests. Since the collections are constantly being added and subtracted from, digitization will be an ongoing process.

Learn about the collections information and mapping systems used to manage our living collections >

Orchid Collection Digitization

Smithsonian Gardens has been digitizing Orchid Collection records since 2010. In the Fall of 2017, the Digitization Program Office supported a project during which more than 6,000 orchids were professionally photographed to capture overall plant size and flower characteristics. This project received Federal support from the Smithsonian Collections Care Initiative, administered by the National Collections Program.

Tree Collection Digitization

Smithsonian Gardens is currently working on photographing all of the trees within our Collection. Digitizing a tree collection is challenging because specimens are not contained within a building or small enough to light and position for an ideal photograph. We hope to photos captured as part of this project to create a field guide to the trees of Smithsonian. This project received Federal support from the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund, administered by the National Collections Program and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee.