HerbUX Project

The HerbUX Project

Designing a visual user interface to digital Herbarium plant collections, driven by community and user needs


For several hundred years, botanists have been collecting, documenting, and archiving plants. These collections, housed in herbaria, represent a critical material history of ecological state and environmental change through time.

Herbarium collections have increasingly been digitized and made available online. The associated search and discovery interfaces are effective for the scientific community, but assume the user has specialized knowledge of plants and knows what they are looking for.

As such, these digitized herbarium collections remain somewhat inaccessible to large portions of the population.

The Project

The Herbarium User Experience (HerbUX) project will design an interface to these critical collections with non-expert audiences (such as students, museum visitors, and the general public) in mind, for use in classrooms, museums, and other public spaces.

This interface will be easy to use, encourage non-directed exploratory browsing, directly support pedagogical methodologies and learning outcomes, and be aesthetically engaging.

Our project builds upon previous experiments in interface design: view a short video demo of an early prototype for user-centered browsing of digitized herbarium collections


HerbUX interface design meeting: May 28-29, 2020, Brown University, Providence RI

With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the first stage of this project will bring together a variety of experts in herbarium collections management, science education, user experience (UX) design, and museum exhibit design to survey user needs and generate design ideas for a user-friendly interface. Information and ideas from the meeting will ultimately be used to generate a functional mockup to serve as a specification for a subsequent development phase.

Travel costs, lodging, and meals will be provided.


Travel information

Air: The closest airport is T.F. Green Airport (PVD), a 15 minute drive from Brown University. Public transit buses run between the airport and Providence. Take Route 1 to Tunnel & Thayer to get to campus. Take Route 8 (departing from the Interlink facility, accessible from the airport) to Weybossett & Eddy or turks/head to get to the Hampton Inn. Taxis and Lyft also serve arriving passengers.

Boston Logan (BOS) is 1-1.5 hrs by car or ~2 hrs by public transit. To get to Providence by public transit, take the MBTA Silver Line from BOS to South Station, and transfer to commuter rail (Providence/Stoughton line) or Amtrak to Providence Station.

Rail: Providence Station is on the Amtrak Acela Express and Northeast Regional lines.



Patrick Rashleigh, Brown University Center for Digital Scholarship, [email protected]

Tim Whitfeld, Bell Museum Herbarium at the University of Minnesota, [email protected]

Rebecca Kartzinel, Brown University Herbarium, [email protected]