Nahant awarded $15K federal grant to preserve, digitize herbarium

Nahant Public Library Director Sharon Hawkes looks through the herbarium which was created by Florence “Miss Flossie” Johnson, a Nahant school teacher, and her pupils in 1897. (Spenser R. Hasak)

NAHANT — A federal grant will help the library preserve the town’s natural history. 

Nahant was awarded a federal Library Services and Technology Act grant for $15,000 from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to preserve and digitize a 122-year-old herbarium.

“With a huge interest right now in preserving Nahant’s natural resources, we hope to provide a way to look more closely at what is and was beautiful here, and to think about what to preserve in the future,” said Library Director Sharon Hawkes. 

Go Local: Nature in Nahant will involve discovering the plants that grow — and once grew — in Nahant’s unique natural surroundings. Part of the program will include examining a pressed plant collection from 1897 that is held by the library. 

“The pressed plants in many cases represent what grew in Nahant at that time,” said Hawkes.

The herbarium was created by Florence “Miss Flossie” Johnson, a Nahant school teacher, and her pupils. More than 180 specimens were entered into a Massachusetts Horticultural Society show back in 1897 and won a prize. These and more than 200 other specimens make up the collection, which the library will digitize and allow the public to access. 

Hawkes also hopes to work with the community to create exhibits, host a Walk Nahant Day, offer a lecture series and leave a time capsule for the next generation. 

“Nahant is vitally interested in preserving its natural environment,” said Hawkes.

The state Board of Library Commissioners created the grant program using federal funds to help libraries meet local community needs. Nahant has won other awards from the commissioners in recent years, which were used to provide programs and materials for people with Alzheimer’s, and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) resources for young children. 

Rob Favini, head of library advisory and development, said the commissioners award money to libraries for projects that fill unique needs of libraries across the state. 

“Libraries continue to be a vital resource to the communities they serve,” he said in a statement. “Programs funded through LSTA grants illustrate the diverse range of topics and audience served by Massachusetts libraries.”

The herbarium collection will be made available by the library as a community resource. 


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