Faculty of ScienceFaculty of Science

History of The Don McNair Herbarium

Genesis of The Don McNair Herbarium arose in 1995 when Don McNair donated, and The University of Newcastle accepted custodial responsibility of, a collection of dried and pressed plant specimens, botanical books, texts, photographs and sketches of Australian native plants. The plant specimen collection was made up of a number of personal collections.

Don McNair Collection

A collection of 5,437 specimens (1955 – 1995) contains a strong representation of flora from the Mid North Coast of New South Wales (Port Stephens). In addition specimens were collected from arid zones located in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory.

H.C. Dorman Collection

A collection of 762 specimens dating back to 1963 which principally represents flora of The Mid North Coast of New South Wales and arid areas of South Australia.

Tetratheca juncea specimen's collected by H.C. Dorman in 1972.
Prostanthera densa specimen collected by H.C. Dorman in 1952.

Phyllis Williams Collection

A collection of 489 specimens gathered during the 1970’s, primarily exotic horticultural specimens.

Schinus Molle specimen collected in 1972 by Phyllis Williams.

At this time the combined collection comprised some 6,688  plant specimens.

As an interim measure the collection was housed in a rumpus room of Don McNair’s residence, this became a makeshift herbarium over the subsequent eight years. On advice provided by staff at the National Herbarium of New South Wales, the collection was rehabilitated, re-mounted, labelled and stored following international Herbaria standards and recorded in-line with the Herbarium Information and Standard Procedures for Interchange of Data (HISPID). During this time, more species were added to the Herbarium, in particular species endemic to the Lower Hunter and Tomago Sand Mass. Checklists of Australian plant species were drawn up from the many field expeditions undertaken by Don McNair and colleagues with a particular focus on the Hunter Valley. This major project of establishing The Don McNair Herbarium was a joint effort undertaken by volunteers from The University of Newcastle and members of The Society for Growing Australian Plants, Newcastle Group.

In 1997, accommodation for the rehabilitated collection was made available in the Biological Sciences building at The University of Newcastle. As specimens were rehabilitated, they were transferred to the new herbarium space. On 15th October 2003, The Don McNair Herbarium was officially opened jointly by the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Newcastle, Professor Roger S Holmes and by Dr Barry Conn, Manager Plant Diversity, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. The rehabilitated collection then numbered 9,600 specimens and included valuable collections donated by other botanists, including Dr JC Turner and S Herd.

In 2010 The Don McNair Herbarium was relocated to renovated accommodation that housed a compactus unit for appropriate storage of the collection and space to house the botanical library and allow for ongoing specimen preparation, maintenance and taxonomic identification. The collection had grown with subsequent donations from Barbara Burke, T. Peake and R. Robinson, Pamela Westcott, Val and W Walker and it now numbered over 12,200 specimens. The Don McNair Herbarium was registered on the international registry of herbaria, Index Herbariorum, to allow specimen borrowing and exchange rights with other herbaria worldwide. Since this time the collection has continued to grow with donations from the National Parks and Wildlife Services, Conjoint Professor Abdul Ghafoor and University academic voucher specimens.