I love history and am especially interested in people who take it upon themselves to teach others about plants. The self-initiated projects launched by these individuals are inspiring. They also are good stories to share with students.
Today I would like to introduce you to the herbarium by Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma (1835-1877), a Dutch physician who worked for the Dutch government on St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles.
Dr. van Rijgersma was one of six physicians who cared for freed slaves after slavery ended in the Dutch colonies (Ehn & Zanoni, 2002). He was also an amateur naturalist and documented the flora and fauna of St. Martin.
Van Rijgersma’s life has been documented in the book Flowers of St. Martin, the 19th Century Watercolours of Westindian Plants Painted by Hendrik van Rijgersma (1988).
I first learned about Dr. van Rijgersma in The Herbarium and Botanical Art of Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma, an article by Mia Ehn and Thomas A. Zanoni published in the journal Taxon. They write about the discovery of van Rijgersma’s herbarium at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and write about the locations where parts of his collection have been found. Of the 127 specimens they located, 73 include artwork by van Rijgersma (Ehn & Zanoni, 2002). These herbarium sheets have pencil sketches, ink drawings or small paintings that included below the pressed specimen. Ehn and Zanoni include in their paper a list of specimens discovered in Stockholm, as well as written documentation of the type of artwork found on the herbarium sheets.
It must be noted that the links in Ehn and Zanoni’s article are no longer valid. Fortunately for us, van Rijgersma’s collection is still online. The current URL to van Rijgersma’s herbarium is extremely long. To view his collection of herbarium specimens and drawings, click on the link below.
Ehn, Mia and Thomas A. Zanoni. 2002. The Herbarium and Botanical Art of Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma. Taxon. 51(3): 513-520