The Information Centre in Canberra is the prime point of contact for visitors to the Gardens. Recent surveys show that some 40 per cent of visitors make use of the Centre. Staff are available to answer visitors' questions about the Gardens and its facilities. The Public Reference Herbarium is available for public use within the Information Centre. Visitors and those studying the regional flora are encouraged to use this resource to identify their own plant specimens or collections. Visitors can also leave plant specimens to be identified by the Gardens' scientific staff.
An interpretive shelter and an unstaffed display room provide information to visitors to the Jervis Bay site.
Educational displays covering a wide range of topics such as vegetation types, plant groups, animalplant interactions, human uses of plants, conservation and botanical art are set up from time to time in the Information Centre. Where appropriate, these are linked with outdoor activities in the Gardens and supported with printed material. The displays are also made available, usually in a modified form, to regional botanic gardens or other suitable venues for exhibition.
Leaflets are provided on a range of aspects of the Gardens and the Australian flora, including a general guide, self-guided walks, plant groups, facts and figures, memorials and bibliographies. Donations are requested to cover costs of the information leaflets. Interpretive signs along major walking paths supplement the plant identification labels in the Gardens. These signs contain information about the plants and their place in the natural ecosystem or use in human cultures, both past and present.
The Friends' guides have become a significant addition to the information and interpretation programs, providing a positive experience for both the guides and those participating in the tours.
High priority will be given to the planning and construction of a new information centre in Canberra, in a more strategic location to encourage a greater proportion of people to visit it. This will ensure that more visitors to the Gardens enjoy an informed and educationally rewarding visit. The Public Reference Herbarium in Canberra will be enhanced and its use by the public promoted. A smaller, regionally oriented public reference herbarium will be established at the Jervis Bay site.
The Gardens in Canberra will continue to prepare educational displays on a range of topics to inform the public of our botanical heritage and promote its conservation. Among the display topics planned for the future are `orchids', `cryptogams', and `endangered plant species'. Other topics will be timed to coincide with major developments at the Gardens. The Gardens will continue to offer displays to regional botanic gardens and similar venues when material is available. Display photographs will be stored at the Gardens following the dismantling of each exhibition to enable them to be `recycled' to other venues at minimum cost.
The Gardens will continue to produce information leaflets on various plant groups and their cultivation, as well as interpretive leaflets on the Gardens and its various sections. Significant topics planned for the future include `the Rainforest Gully', `the Sydney Basin flora' and `the Tasmanian Section'. A Japanese edition of the general guide will be produced and demand for information in other languages will be assessed.
Additional interpretive signs will be placed in the Gardens to enable visitors to gain a greater understanding of our unique flora and its conservation status. Priority will be given to interpreting the displays of the Sydney Basin flora and the Tasmanian flora, and at Jervis Bay special emphasis will given to explaining the cryptogam flora and rainforest. In the taxonomic sections, photometal labels will replace the engraved wooden signs.
Opportunities for joint endeavours with kindred institutions in Canberra, such as the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the Canberra Nature Park, will be explored in implementing outdoor interpretation programs.
Efforts will be made to expand the Friends' guides program to operate a seven-days-a-week service during peak visitation periods. Continuing and refresher training, together with a program of regular review of tour programs will be developed.
The Gardens will avail itself of the latest of electronic communication technology to provide an information service to computer users in Australia and internationally. This will include specially prepared information on the Gardens and Australian plants, and making the databases of the Gardens accessible to a wide range of users.