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LuEsther T. Mertz Library
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About the Library: Departments

Archives & Special Collections

The Archives of The New York Botanical Garden provide a comprehensive history of the growth and development of The Garden since its inception in 1891 as well as chart the history of American botanical science and horticulture as fields of study. The departmental records chronicle the growth and development of the Garden as a major international scientific, educational, and cultural institution and document the relationships between Garden staff with colleagues at other botanical, horticultural, and cultural institutions in the 19th and 20th centuries, both in this country and abroad. Manuscripts of important botanists, horticulturists, and educators provide a wealth of information about the individuals and their notable accomplishments.

The collections contain nearly a mile of unpublished archival documents and manuscripts such as correspondence, working papers, field notebooks, photographs, architectural plans, maps, illustrations, portraits, and artifacts.

Access the Archives Portal to search or browse the finding aids for many of these historical collections. 

The Archives are arranged in three main categories:

  • The institutional records were created as a result of official Garden activities.
  • The personal papers contain correspondence, manuscripts, research notes, and other materials from botanists, horticulturists, and landscape designers associated with the history of botany and horticulture in the U.S. and the growth and evolution of the Garden and its work.
  • The repository archives are the historical records of selected botanical and horticultural organizations, plant societies and plant-related business and industry.

Descriptive records for many collections may also be found in the Garden's online catalog. The archives and manuscript collections are only available for researchers with an appointment. Try searching ARCHIVEGRID to discover primary source materials for your research.

For more information on archival collections or to schedule an appointment, please contact: Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, at


The LuEsther T. Mertz Library Technical Services Department provides intellectual access to the Library’s collections by creating bibliographic records containing descriptive and subject analysis, and making those records available to users through the Library’s online catalog. In addition, the Department physically processes library materials to make them available for patron use, removes items from the catalog when they are no longer part of the collection, and maintains authority control over the catalog.

In general, the Library uses Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings, with some local variation relating to plant nomenclature. The library uses the Millennium integrated library system. Because of the comprehensive nature of the collection, we create original cataloging records for approximately 40% of the material we acquire. These records are shared with the worldwide library community through the OCLC bibliographic utility using the Connexion interface.  Bibliographic records are maintained in USMARC format and cataloging conforms to AACR2R 2002 standards.

Current projects

Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Project

This collection contains catalogs issued by approximately 5,000 commercial nurseries, primarily American, with some representation from Europe and Japan.  These trade catalogs are one of the special collections of the Mertz Library and constitute one of the largest such collections in the United States.

The entire collection will be processed resulting in the creation of bibliographic records that provide access to various data including nursery name, catalog title, publisher, place of publication, date and subject.  Scholars will have access to the records via the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and the Mertz Library online catalog.  A selection of catalogs will be digitized and made available online through the MertzDigital site which is powered by the digital asset management system, ContentDM and hosted by OCLC.

Plant Name Subject Authority Project

As an aid to catalogers when handling publications about various ranks of taxa, the subject authority for every taxon of family and below must contain the local class number.  This has not been done in a consistent way, so the first goal of the project is to insure that every name for which there is a bibliographic record using that name has a corresponding authority record, and that the class number is in the authority record.

To the greatest extent possible, the established form should be currently accepted nomenclature.  Synonyms should be included, and such common names as are likely to be searched.

Metadata and Digital Projects

Cataloging staff provide metadata for titles that are digitized and added to the Library’s MertzDigital collection. Links to digitized items are added to the Library’s catalog records, both for titles digitized in-house and available on MertzDigital as well as digitized material located in repositories such as the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and Google Books.

Serials Inventory Project

A complete inventory of every volume of the Library’s 12,000+ serial titles is underway, which will provide accurate and comprehensive holdings information in the online catalog.

Collection Development

The Collection Development department identifies and collects publications in print and digital formats with subjects relating to plant studies. These materials reflect the programs of The New York Botanical Garden in Science, Horticulture and Education. Materials are received as purchases, as gifts, or through exchange with other botanical and academic institutions throughout the United States and in Europe, Africa, China and countries in Central and South America.

The collections are used Garden staff as well as by people and organizations outside of the Garden. The work of these professionals and students cannot be conducted at the highest level of achievement without access to the best and most current thinking in their respective fields.

The LuEsther T Mertz Library maintains as comprehensive collection within the core disciplines of floristics and plant taxonomy. The Library also collects research materials in arboriculture, biodiversity conservation, botanical illustration, ecology, ethnobotany, floral arrangement, forestry, gardening, garden history and design, horticulture, landscape history and design, parks, plant anatomy and physiology, plant ecology, plant molecular biology, propagation, and other areas of plant studies. The collection policies reflect the work of the Education, Horticulture and Science departments and the mission of The New York Botanical Garden as a steward of the plant world.

Monographs and Serials

The Library adds hundreds of monographic items each year in dozens of languages. Annual analysis of the acquisitions patterns provides data for strategic collection development and includes comparing the library catalog against published bibliographies and reviewing the use statistics for accessing library resources. The department completed a title by title comparison of Frodin’s Guide to standard floras of the world (2nd edition) against the library catalog. This review revealed that the Library holds over 80% of the published world floras listed in Frodin and identified titles the library lacks for future acquisition.

The Library subscribes to numerous journals from around the world, many of which are available electronically through Journal Finder:

Electronic Resources 

The Collection Development Department oversees the management of electronic resources provided by the library for use by staff and patrons. Resources are selected for their relevance to the study of plants. The department continues to evolve in response to subscription cancellations and format shifts, and growth in the acquisition of e-resources. 

Follow this link for a list of the Library's electronic resources: Databases - Databases & Resources Directory - Research Guides at New York Botanical Garden (

Exchange Program

The library has been engaged in exchanging publications with other organizations and institutions since the library was formed in the early 20th century. The exchange program offers New York Botanical Garden publications to participating libraries around the world in trade for publications from their home institutions.

The Conservation Department

The mission of the Preservation and Conservation Department at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library is to provide immediate and long term-care of all the Library’s collections, extending their usable life and assuring their uninterrupted access. It contributes to the New York Botanical Garden’s mission by preserving the Garden’s investment in one of the most complete botanical and horticultural collections.

The Preservation and Conservation Department abides to the Code of Ethics and the Guidelines for Practice established by the American Institute for Conservation, and aims to perform and maintain its activities at the highest standards in the field. The Mertz Library endorses the American Library Association Preservation Policy.

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s efforts to preserve and care for its collections were recognized by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and Heritage Preservation. On November 13, 2003, in a ceremony held at The New York Botanical Garden, the Library received the 2003 Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections.

Current Projects


Collection Care is performed on a regular basis in the Conservation Laboratory by trained staff and volunteers. Library and archival materials in need of immediate attention are sent to the Lab to receive basic treatment or protective enclosure, such as mending tears, pamphlet binding, joint repair, reback, self-closing wrapper and corrugated clamshell.

Item-level conservation treatments on damaged materials from the Library’s special collections and Archives are performed by the conservation staff on regular basis in connection to grant related projects, exhibitions or selection through surveys of the collections. Items are individually evaluated by the conservators to determine the proper treatment, according to the type of material, age and history of object as well as its condition and type of damage. These treatments include mending tears, humidification and flattening, resewing, repairing or replacing bindings. All individual treatments are documented in writing and by digital image.


A primary preservation strategy of the Mertz Library’s Preservation and Conservation Program is to focus on activities that will benefit, in the short- and long-term, the greatest number of items in the Collection, minimizing chemical and physical deterioration of the library and archival materials as well as preventing biological infestations. The Department achieves its mission through a comprehensive program of activities, using a combination of traditional bookbinding craft, modern conservation techniques and materials, as well as computer technology. The preservation activities that have the highest priority for the Library include improving climate in storage areas, rehousing and stabilizing collections.

Environmental Monitoring

The conservation staff and the Garden’s engineers have more than ten years of established collaborative work in implementing and managing the climate conditions of the Library within the parameters set forth by the preservation community and energy efficiency requirements. The Library’ independent monitoring program started in September 2000, following a recommendation by William Lull, a consultant in building technology for the preservation of cultural property. Using the Onset’s HOBO system, data loggers are currently installed in various areas of the Library and Archives. Data on the temperature and the relative humidity are collected weekly by the Conservation staff, and compared with the data recorded by the Garden’s Engineering Department through the computerized environmental controls.

Exhibition Preparation and Installation

The Conservation Department is responsible for the preparation, installation, de-installation and maintenance of the exhibits in the Rondina and LoFaro Gallery and the Rare Book Room display Case. Participating actively in the exhibition development process, the primary goal of the department is to ensure that all library objects are properly cared for, handled and displayed. The core exhibition activities includes assessing the conditions and exhibition needs of each object, performing conservation treatment, constructing custom cradles and supports for books, matting and framing. The Conservation Department also provides technical advice and assistance to ensure the preservation of items lent for exhibition and collaborates with other Garden’s departments by sharing knowledge and experience in the field of conservation and exhibition.


The Conservation Department is an integral part of the Library’s Digitization Programs. The department coordinates and plays an active role in establishing selection, care, handling, and transport procedures with all material being digitized either in-house in the imaging lab or with material leaving the Library to be digitized by outsourced vendors.

Reference, Research & Circulation Services

The holdings of the Mertz Library number over one million accessioned items and the archives contain over a mile of materials. The Library provides access to several electronic databases. Navigating through these collections can be a daunting task for members of the general public as well as for experienced researchers. Reference librarians are on duty during opening hours to assist visitors in locating materials they might need and to provide guidance, advice and referrals to collections and materials related to visitor inquiries both onsite and via telephone and email. If you have a question or need assistance finding something, please ask. We are here to help.

Please contact us with any questions you have about using the collections or making a visit to the Library.

Digitization at the Library

The Web Services & Digitization department works to expand access to the Library's collections on a global scale by scanning materials and making them available for use on the Internet. The department pursues 2 goals: increased access and preservation of often fragile materials. By scanning materials on putting them online, the Library makes its peerless collections available to a much wider audience not limited to those able to travel to New York. Also, by following the same process with rare and fragile items, the Library is able to reduce wear and tear on them, make the widely available, and in conjunction with the Conservation Department, extend the life of the originals.

The Library mainly makes its digitized materials available via the Mertz Digital site, a CONTENTdm repository hosted by OCLC, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a global consortium of natural history libraries and museums of which the Garden was a founding member.

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Plant Information

Library Hours

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 10am - 4pm

Wednesday: 10am - 4pm

Thursday: 10am - 4pm

Friday: 10am - 4pm 

Sat & Sun: Closed