Natural History Collection (Archives and Herbarium)

The Special Collections of the Montgomery Library

Twenty years ago (1984), the scattered records of Dr. David Fairchild, Robert H. Montgomery, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden were brought together to create the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Special Collections. Through the generosity of members, volunteers and several grants, the collections have grown into a substantial historic record of the role of plants and plant explorers in this country. Currently, the Fairchild Archives include 14 collections, an estimated 150,000 documents (including letters, manuscripts, architectural drawings, etc.), audio and video tapes, and over 30,000 images in almost every imaginable format. 


The papers of David Fairchild represent the core of the Archive collection. Much of this collection has been preserved and is accessible to those doing scholarly research on the history of botany in the United States. Of the estimated 6,000 photographic images taken by Dr. Fairchild, almost 2,000 have already been preserved, with the remainder temporarily stored. Many of the other collections are safely stored, but have not yet been arranged or given permanent archival treatment. 

Currently, we are working to make the collections more accessible while at the same time ensuring that they are safe from deterioration and disaster. For example, one project underway is the cataloging of David Fairchild’s photographs. At present, almost 4,000 individual photos have been cataloged and indexed. Future projects include digitizing photographs and audio tapes, stabilizing other collections, finding room for proper storage, and eventually making portions of the collections available on the Internet. 

The Fairchild Herbarium

Globally, there are more than 3,240 herbaria in 165 countries, and together, these collections represent all of the known plant diversity on earth. Herbaria range in size from a few thousand specimens to approximately eight million specimens (housed at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris). With a total inventory of about 200,000 specimens (and growing), Fairchild is considered a medium-sized herbarium.

The Fairchild Herbarium is best known for its collections of:

  • Palms from around the world
  • Plants of Florida and the the Caribbean islands
  • Cultivated plants from the tropics

In addition, the Herbarium houses voucher specimens from our field expeditions and garden collections as well as specimens on loan from other institutions that we consult for our research.

The Fairchild Herbarium Online

In 1999, we began a long-term initiative to put our entire Herbarium collection online. Currently, we have nearly 50% of our collection in our database and linked to digital images that are searchable on the Internet. Our wonderful volunteers, whose work is supervised by the Herbarium Curator, Dr. Brett Jestrow, have performed almost all of the scanning and data entry. Their collective efforts make our Herbarium accessible to people who are unable to come to Miami, or who cannot afford the significant cost of shipping specimens on loan.

Photo Usage/Permissions

Unless otherwise stated, all photographs on this page property of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Please contact the Archivist for permission to use or reproduce photographs.