The first president of Weber State University, during his tenure at Weber Stake Academy, Louis F. Moench, had a time consuming hobby: carefully cataloguing and preserved plant specimens from all over the world. These specimens were collected over a five-year period in the early 1880s, over one hundred and thirty years ago.
Until now, Moench’s collection, along with an additional collection from John Lind, had resided in the Tracy Hall Science Center. Moench’s collection contains plant samples such as samples of columbine, monkshood and mallow.
With the collections’ caretaker, Stephen Clark, retiring this coming spring after 54 years of teaching, these historical collections are being turned over to the University Archives as their final resting place.
“These pages show a tradition, a history,” herbarium curator and botany professor Stephen Clark said in a press release regarding the moving of the plant books. “I want to make sure their work remains intact and available to researchers.”
Sadly, very little of Moench’s original work was preserved, making this collection vital to modern historians.
“Viewing the Louis F. Moench herbarium collection for the first time was an awe-inspiring experience,” said Jamie Weeks, university archivist. “As an archivist and historian, it gave me that giddy feeling of butterflies in my stomach.”
“When the opportunity to house and preserve this collection presented itself, University Archives immediately ordered a controlled-environment archival Herbarium storage cabinet with lock and key to house these historical records,” Weeks said.
John Lind’s 120-page collection will also be moving to University Archives. Lind was the first faculty member to hold a Ph.D. at Weber State. Lind traveled the world and gathered samples as he went. Although Lind’s degree was in geology, through much of his 28-year career, he taught courses in a variety of the sciences, including chemistry, physiology, geography and zoology.
Regarding Lind, Clark stated, “Lind knew plants. He knew animals. He knew rocks. He knew the stars. He knew everything. He was an in-the-dirt scientist, hands-on kind of scientist.”
Clark followed in both Lind’s and Moench’s footsteps. He has traveled to five continents studying plants, particularly how they have been and are used by Native Americans, witch doctors, shamans and healers. Clark has catalogued many specimens from Northern Utah and has built the Weber State Herbarium collection to approximately 28,000 specimens.
Regarding this, Clark stated in the press release, “It’s a really good little collection. With our resources, we decided to make a really nice collection for the plants in the immediate area, and that’s what we’ve done here.”
Clark wrote “A Field Guide of the Central Wasatch,” which is available to students of plant taxonomy who wish to identify local plants. His research has helped to build the collection that Moench began more than 130 years ago.
In addition to the collections being available at the University Archives, high resolution photographs will be taken to preserve the collection digitally. Weeks added, “We expect the original documents to continue to stand the test of time and outlast all of us.”