This number is the outcome of the 10th Symposium of the Japanese Association of Historical Botany on preservation and public access to specimens held at National Museum of Japanese History, November 25- 26, 1995. Papers deal with specimens in the fields of palaeobotany, archaeobotany, and archaeozoology.
The Paleobotanical Collections of The National Science Museum are made up of ca. 24,000 specimens, including ca. 11,000 registered specimens with 385 types and several described specimens of the 130 published works. Based on the curatorial work of the collections, present status and problems are described with regard to the preparation, registration, conservation and management, and utilization of plant fossil materials. It is emphasized that: 1) physical and research works before the deposition of specimens are one of the major obstacles ; 2) reference collections of modem species, such as cleared leaves and fruits and seeds, should be conserved and utilized as in the case of fossil specimens ; and 3) personal computer is now a powerful tool to achieve a small- sized database and computerized cataloguing of the particular collections, and information of such database through the network is necessary for more effective use of the collections. In addition, the Plant Fossil Record Database organized by the International Organization of Palaeobotany is briefly introduced as an example of utilization of plant fossil data.
Excavation of lowland archaeological sites during these decades brought us numerous wood samples for studies of paleo-flora, paleo-vegetation and human wood utilization. From these excavated woods, we can get information about how ancient people selected woods for their particular purposes appropriately in what kinds of flora and vegetation, how they processed them with what kinds of tools, and so on. For our botanical studies, identity of these excavated woods is the most important. The identification of wood by means of light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy should be based sufficient collections of extant wood collections. For such identification of excavated wood, preservation of the identified microscopic slides is essential. These slides must be avairable to anyone for further study. Finally construction of a computerized database of all the excavated woods is proposed.
Plant macrofossil specimens should be preserved for future re-examination. Accumulated specimens can be used for other research programs. Usually research on plant macrofossils starts with the description of assmemblages, and specimen numbers will be attached to the assemblages. If it is needed, additional numbers for taxa or individuals are attached. To attach numbers to individual specimens, some researchers mount them on slides because it is difficult to attach numbers on the specimens themselves. But this method makes it difficult to retrieve the specimens for further study. Large collection of extant specimens for comparison is important for the identification. Specimens should be deposited in a proper institute and their information should be made available to the other researchers.
Archaeologists leave preservation and public access to plant specimens from archaeological sites to scientists. It is very difficult to preserve plant remains in an organization for archaeological reserach, because they are filled to their capacity only with archaeological deposits such as potteries and stone implements as the major study materials in the field.
Japanese archaeology has developed as a branch of historical studies of Japan, which resulted in less importance being attached to organic remains than to artifacts. Thus zooarchaeologists' managemant of specimens is looser and unsatisfactory than that of biologists. Recent reference specimens are evidence showing the bases of identification and also materials for comparative osteology. A management system of recent specimens, which includes registration, preservation and description, is necessary to maintain and utilize them in future. On the other hand, large-scale excavations of midden sites in recent years have yielded a great quantity of animal remains, generating serious problems such as shortage of storage space or labor and cost required to cope with them. These problems can not be resolved without public consensus for the specimens. We must make efforts to obtain public understanding of the significance of fossil specimens by showing the history of human- environment relationships plainly.