Collections Management

Collections Policy

The Collections Policy guides the curation of accessioned plants  in the Lyman Conservatory, campus arboretum, named gardens, campus plantings, and natural areas. It enumerates priorities to guide decisions about the acquisition, deaccessioning, and management of materials. It also sets forth a vision for an ideal collection, balancing our mission, the desires of curators, the needs of stakeholders (including students, faculty, staff, alumnae, Botanic Garden members, and the general public), and educational opportunities with the Botanic Garden’s available resources. 
Read our Collections Policy
Collections Management Plan (outside plants)

Documentation and Record-keeping

Plant collections in botanic gardens need to be correctly identified and documented to serve our goals of display, education, research, and conservation. At the Botanic Garden of Smith College we have maintained plant records since our founding. At first an index card file system was used to track register numbers, source, and location of each plant in the Lyman Conservatory and in the outdoor gardens and arboretum.

In 1971 the numbering system was changed. Each plant is now assigned an accession number and qualifier, e.g., 10785*B, with the last two digits of the number reflecting the year it was accessioned. Accession numbers for plants existing prior to 1971 end in PA, e.g., 745PA. In the 1980s plant records were computerized (with our own custom-designed software). In 2000 our plant records were transferred into BG-BASE™, a plant collections management software system used by over 186 institutions in 30 countries, which enables us to track a variety of information about our plants.


Maps of the plant collection were originally created manually using Smith College campus maps. In 2002 a systematic approach to mapping the collections was begun using BG-Map, software specifically designed for botanical gardens. It works withAutoCAD to link our accessioned plants in BG-BASE to the Smith campus map. The locations of new plantings on campus are determined using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and hand held data collectors. After being uploaded into BG-Map, each plant’s mapped location is verified and adjusted as necessary.

Access to Collections Data

You may Search Our Collection, which gives you access to information from our database, mapping system, and image database.

Access to information about our collections is also available through an online searchable database supported by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Scotland, which allows access to plant collections of 27 gardens in the U.S. and Europe. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, also offer a Plant Search feature on their website.

Our Visitor Touch Screen in the Lyman Plant House reception area enables visitors to locate mapped plants, memorial and honorial trees and benches, and print maps of their locations. In addition to finding particular plants, visitors can create their own campus tree tour and print a map. You can also search for memorial/honorial plantings online.

Plant Labels

The plants in our collection have labels that make excellent learning tools. In addition to common name, which may vary from place to place, each label displays the universally accepted scientific name, plant family, information on nativity, as well as the accession number with qualifier. At one time, labels were handwritten or hand embossed, but are now generated from our database system.  

Conservatory Plant Label

Conservatory plants have PolyTherm ® labels (printed in-house) that also include a barcode, which represents the plant’s accession number and qualifier. This allows for inventories to be conducted using a hand-held scanner, from which the information is uploaded into our database.

indoor barcoded label

Outdoor Garden and Campus Arboretum Label

Plants in the outdoor collections have engraved anodized aluminum labels (also made in-house). Labels either hang from branches or are mounted on tree trunks.

outdoor plant label

Larger plastic honorial, memorial or interpretive labels may also be found on select trees and plants in the Conservatory and on campus.

echevaria displaying a rosette of succulent green leaves tinged red at the tip