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Photograph Collection Policy

Aim: To further develop the collection of photographs of Australian plants and their habitats to promote Australian plants, their conservation and cultural values.


The Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian National Herbarium has an active policy of building a collection of photographs of all Australian native and naturalised plants. Photographs are taken by staff and are sought from a range of photographers throughout Australia.

Photographs showing the development of the Gardens, horticultural practices, examples of landscape design and other images used for educational purposes or historical records supplement the collection. Data from the photographs are linked with those of the herbarium and living collections through the Gardens computer database.

Original print photographs or 35 mm slides are not released from the collection but digital duplicates or born-digital images are supplied to publishers and for lectures or similar purposes. Access to the collection is granted to individuals and organisations to promote interest in our native flora. Where the Commonwealth’s copyright, in the name of the Director of National Parks, is administered by the Gardens, the Gardens licenses publishers to reproduce photographs from the collection. There is a charge for this service.

The Web is now the prime mechanism for disseminating the scope of the collection to prospective users. Descriptions of all photographs are accessible through the Web and low-resolution images are gradually being made available for viewing.

The Australian Plant Image Index is a core collection of publication quality photographs of the Australian flora, selected for their botanical and aesthetic qualities from the plant photographs in the Gardens collection. The aim is to have represented in the Index good quality coloured photographs of every Australian native plant, showing different parts such as flowers and fruit, variation in species, different habit and habitat.

Scope of the Australian Plant Image Index

Portraits of flowers form the bulk of the Index, but photographs of fruit, bark, or whole plants are also included. Non-flowering plants (mosses, lichens etc) are presently poorly represented in the collection but it is aimed to include them in the Index.

Format of photographs

Photographs in the Index were originally taken as 35 mm colour slides. There was a preference for Kodachrome due to its archival storage properties, but other film types were accepted.

Since 2005 the Index has grown with the addition of born-digital images from digital cameras. As a general rule, only images from cameras with a resolution of 6 megapixels or above are included in the Index.

Accuracy of naming

The most significant aspect of the Index, which separates it from many other photo libraries, is the emphasis on accurate botanical naming of the plants. There is no intention of populating the Index with ‘pretty’ photos of un-named plants.

The ideal photo will have a herbarium voucher specimen lodged in one of the herbaria in Australia, linked to the photo by a registration number. This number and the institution to which it is linked will form part of the photo data. (About 50% of the images are vouchered)

In the absence of voucher specimens the reliability of the naming of the photos will be assessed – from those taken of labelled plants in botanic gardens, to word-of-mouth identifications made by people of varying expertise.

These factors will be taken into account in deciding whether to accept a photo for the Index.

Promotion of the collection

As part of its role to ‘promote Australia’s flora’ the Gardens has always encouraged the use of the collection by both the private and public sector. A coloured leaflet promoting the Australian Plant Image Index is used to encourage donations to, and use of the Collection.

The collection is also promoted electronically on the Internet. About 300,000 plant images are accessed from the Gardens website each week.

Advertisements are occasionally placed in trade journals for publishers.

By far the best promotion for the collection is the photo credit alongside photographs published in a range of books and magazines. This usually includes the photographer’s name followed by ‘© Australian National Botanic Gardens’.

Deaccessioning the collection

Photographs may be removed from the collection due to their damaged state, or when the acquisition of superior photographs justifies the removal of material of inferior standard. Photographs taken as an adjunct to an herbarium specimen, marked with the collector’s number and cross-referenced to the herbarium specimen always remain part of the collection.

When copyright for a de-accessioned photograph is held by a person other than the Commonwealth all reasonable efforts are made to return it to the copyright holder.

Authorisation for de-accession is given by the Director ANBG or his appointed officers.

Donations to the collection

Donations of photographs to the Index may be eligible for concessions under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.

Once the Gardens has agreed to accept the donation two independent valuers registered under the Scheme must value it. The valuations are then submitted to the Committee for the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. If accepted, the assessed value of the donation can be claimed as a deduction from the donor’s assessable income for the year. Valuers take into account the rarity of the plant, the reliability of the identification and the quality of the photograph.

The Gardens also accepts collections of photographs bequeathed to it. There is an active policy to seek significant collections by encouraging people to leave them to the Gardens in their Will. The Australian Government Solicitor has drawn up an appropriate clause for this purpose.

Reviewing Policy

The management of the ANBG is governed by a Management Plan, revised and tabled in Parliament every seven years after an extensive review process. The management of the Photograph Collection is part of this process. The excerpts below are extracted from the 2002 - 2008 Plan, updated to accommodate technological changes.

MANAGEMENT POLICIES for 2002 – 2008 (adapted from ANBG Management Plan 2002)

The curation of the photographic collection will be continued and enhanced and the photographs will be stored under the most appropriate archival conditions for their day-to-day management.


Curation of the collection is of a high standard. Slides are stored in archival DW Viewpack hangers, recommended for their stability and the lack of break-down fumes believed to be associated with some other plastics. The hangers are stored in fire-retardant, four-drawer Chubb filing cabinets, with security locks. Humidity associated with the cabinets is recognised as a problem, and at the present time each drawer has silica-gel containers that are regularly oven-dried.

The ideal storage for a collection such as this is in a cold-room, but this is not practicable at the present time with the collection being in continual use. There are condensation problems with slides being brought in and out of a cold-room, and a cold storage system would only work if there was a second working collection of duplicate slides for day-to-day use.

Born-digital and digitised slide data-files are stored in the IBIS database and on archival DVDs/CDs.

The Gardens will continue to act as custodian of copyright for photographs taken by staff in the course of their duties, or for copyright of photographs donated to or purchased by the Gardens.


Copyright of photographs taken by staff in the course of their duties belongs to the Commonwealth, in the name of the Director of National Parks. Unless there is some reason, photos donated to the Index will be accepted if the copyright to the photo is transferred wholly or jointly to the Director of National Parks.

The data associated with photographs will continue to be transferred to the Gardens’ computer database and associated electronic image storage technology will be implemented.


The various parts of the Gardens Photograph Collection, and the Australian Plant Image Index are only useful if they are accessible. Databasing the collection has been an on-going activity with the transfer of information from index cards after 1984.

The applications for the various components of the Photograph Collection are part of the IBIS Database for the ANBG. (IBIS = Integrated Biodiversity Information System).

There are currently two different applications for the photograph data:

a) PHOTO - to search using scientific plant names

This application is gradually being linked to other applications within the IBIS database, and eventually will be totally integrated with them. A plant name will link the photograph with the Australian Plant Name Index (APNI) and a collection accession number will link the photograph to the living plant collection, and to the herbarium specimen and its collector.

At the present time only some aspects of the PHOTO application are linked to other applications in IBIS, mainly the APNI application that automatically checks the validity of the plant name and assigns it a plant family within the PHOTO application.

b) KWIKPIK - to search for key words other than scientific plant names

This application is used to enter and search for information that is not based on botanical plant names or families, or accession numbers for collected plants.

Searches can be made for photographs showing ‘grassland’ or ‘mangroves’, on names of people such as ‘Crosbie Morrison’ or ‘Cunningham’, on techniques such as ‘pruning’ or ‘mulching’. Up to six key words can apply to each photograph. The list of key words is dynamic and is constantly added to as slides are entered.

Photographs are entered in these two applications with each image having a unique alpha-numeric registration number. Born-digital images are given the category 'Dig'. The ‘alpha’ component for 35mm slides reflects the various categories that the slides are filed under in hangers. Thus most plant portraits are filed as ‘A’ although for historical reasons orchids are filed as ‘O’. Cultivars are filed as ‘X’ and birds are filed as ‘B’.

Field trip photographs, where more than 100 photos are taken on a particular trip or in a particular region are grouped together, with the ‘alpha’ component indicating the particular trip. Thus the ‘NQ’ prefix indicates photos taken on the North Queensland trip of 1972, ‘NT’ indicates photos taken on the Northern Territory trip of 1980, and ‘WAF’ indicates photos taken on the sixth Western Australian field trip in 1992. For a full list of ‘alpha’ categories for the collection see Appendix 1.

From 1995 to 2005 electronic storage of images was undertaken for part of the collection on Kodak’s Photo-CD system. These CDs each store 100 images in electronic form at various resolutions and can be accessed by computer.

The Gardens will license publishers to reproduce images and will provide duplicates or digital images of photographs for educational and promotional purposes.


Users who wish to publish images from the Gardens collection are issued with a licence permitting use of copyright images. The licence is based on a document drawn up by the Australian Government Solicitor and sets out the terms of the agreement between the Director of National Parks (‘the Licensor’) and the Licensee. These terms include the acknowledgment, the fee and copies of the publication if appropriate. For a copy of the licence agreement see Appendix 2 PDF-file.

Original photographs are not supplied to publishers but digital images are supplied for each photo request. Users are asked to delete digital images from electronic storage after use.

Charges will apply in certain instances for costs associated with licences, handling and duplication of photos for reproduction.


Since 1989 the Gardens has charged a fee for the use of photographs published from the collection. This fee is implemented as a licence fee for use of copyright images. There is a reduced rate for non-commercial users whose aims are akin to those of the Gardens. If an image is supplied and not used a handling fee can be charged.

A ledger is used to track licence fees, and invoices are created through the Department's Financial Management System. Monies are received by an ANBG Fund and form part of the revenue base for the Gardens through the budget process. Credit card payments were introduced in 2007.

On occasions a fee for use is waived where education or information provision is seen as the primary role, or the promotional value to the Gardens and the collection outweighs the financial benefit of charging a fee.

The information sheet ‘Use of images from the Australian Plant Image Index, including the current fees, is included as Appendix 3.

Management Actions for 2002 – 2008 (ANBG Management Plan 2002)

Promotion of the Collection

The use of the collection by publishers from both the private and public sector will be encouraged. The best promotion for the collection is a photo credit acknowledging the Gardens alongside photographs published in a range of books and magazines.

Images will be stored on the Gardens website allowing international promotion of the collection.

Students will be encouraged to visit the collection on-line and become aware of its scope and availability.

Sources for Photographs for the Collection

Staff will be encouraged to photograph plants in the Gardens and in the field and place them in the collection.

The wider botanical community will be encouraged through promotional materials, direct approaches and awareness raising activities to donate or bequeath reliably identified, high quality photographs to the collection.

The Gardens will promote the use of the government’s tax incentive schemes to encourage suitable donations to the collection and facilitate this process.

Commercial Access to the Collection

A charge will apply for use of photographs published from the collection. Electronic transmission of licensed images through the Web will be implemented when practicable.

Public Access to the Collection

The transfer of images for 35 mm slides to the Gardens’ website will continue as a means of making the collection accessible to the public.

Access to the physical collection may be permitted by appointment.

The Gardens will evaluate the feasibility of establishing a new shopfront to provide more direct public access to the photographic collection and, if feasible and resources permit, establish and implement it.

Scientific Access to the Collection

Photographs associated with, and linked to, herbarium specimens in the Australian National Herbarium and the living collections will be progressively incorporated into the photograph collection.

Photographs from the collection will be used to illustrate interactive CD keys and other multi-media products being produced by the Australian scientific community, and the Gardens will seek to become an active partner in their production.

Botanical sites on the Web may be permitted to make links to photographs on the Gardens website.


Australian National Botanic Gardens Management Plan 2002-2008

Australian National Botanic Gardens World Wide Web (WWW) Internet site,

Australian National Botanic Gardens Photograph Collection Policy 1995

Australian National Botanic Gardens Photograph Collection Policy 1998

Updated 15 July, 2010 by the Photograph Curator (