The vascular herbarium at the University of Arizona (ARIZ), with about 345,000 sheets at the present time, is the largest herbarium in the region. It holds the largest collection of plants from Arizona and from the state of Sonora, Mexico, and significant holdings from all other parts of the arid southwest and northwestern Mexico. It is an extremely active herbarium, whether measured in terms of active research projects that are based here, loans and interactions with researchers at other institutions, use by the students of all levels, or out-reach activities.
Because of its very active program of collecting in support of research, the herbarium is beginning to experience a space crisis. This is the case despite a rigorous policy regarding acquisitions which demands that newly accessioned specimens have research value, build on areas of strength, and not represent excessive duplication. Without increasing storage capacity, the collection will soon be in the position of rejecting specimens or of storing them in a fashion that renders them inaccessible to researchers and students, neither of which is tenable for a herbarium as active as ARIZ. At the same time, there is little additional physical space readily that is both suitable and available.
To alleviate this crisis, this project will provide for the installation a mobile of the storage system (compactors). Compactors substantially increase storage capacity within the same physical space by reducing the number of permanently open aisles between rows of herbarium cases (or of bookshelves, medical records, etc., in the case of other applications). The total impact of the project will enable the herbarium to increase its current capacity by 50% and to continue its present growth trajectory for nearly 25 years.