Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Documenting the Acadian Forest Region’s rich biodiversity.

Dr. Ernest Chalmer Smith was a Biology professor whose tenure at Acadia began in 1947 and lasted nearly three decades. During that time, the specimen collection more than tripled from 20,000 sheets to 70,000.


The Perry Legacy (1910-1949?)

The herbarium at Acadia began in 1910 as an initial gift from the well-respected New Brunswick educator and naturalist George U. Hay to the first (then-newly appointed) professor of biology at Acadia, Dr. Horace G. Perry. Included in this collection were a few plants collected by Rev. James Fowler of New Brunswick before he went to Queen’s University to become only the second professor of Natural History there. These first specimens were collected between 1868 and 1880 and represent some of the oldest in the herbarium.

Subsequently, in these early years, the additions were made chiefly through the work of Dr. Perry and his students. The collection grew to 6,000, which also included a number of groundbreaking specimens from the Gray Herbarium Expeditions to Nova Scotia in 1920 and 1921, led by Merritt Lyndon Fernald, an eminent Harvard University professor and botanist. 

The Roscoe and Banks Legacy (1926-1940)

Of the specimens above the 6,000 count, the majority have been added by the work of Dr. Muriel V. Roscoe and her students from 1928-1940, and Dr. H.P. Banks and his students from 1940-1946?.

Dr. Muriel V. Roscoe (B.A’18. Hon ’48) was an eminent scholar and educator who influenced successive generations to major scientific accomplishments. Dr. Roscoe taught in the Biology Department at Acadia for 14 years, beginning in 1926, and later joined the Botany Department at McGill University, where she served as chair for many years.

In 1946, a large collection was being assembled by Mr. David Erskine, who catalogued the flora of Wolfville and vicinity. 

The Smith Legacy (1947-1975)

The tenure of Hillsboro, Inverness County, native Dr. Ernest C. Smith at Acadia began in 1947, and in his nearly 30 years of service, the number of specimens grew from 20,000 sheets to an impressive 70,000. In recognition of his unparalleled contributions, Acadia University’s Board of Governors announced in 1970 that the department’s large collection of plants would be named the E.C. Smith Herbarium.

The Vander Kloet Legacy (1972-2011)

Dr. Sam Vander Kloet began his teaching career in the Biology Department of Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in 1972. In addition to his professorial duties, he was also the curator of the E.C. Smith Herbarium and took on the added responsibility and challenge of keeping the small, dilapidated greenhouse in the back of Patterson Hall (then home of the Biology Department) in working order. This was where he kept his expanding research collection of living blueberry plants gathered during numerous forays that spanned the globe from Newfoundland to Central America and Southeast Asia, and where he conducted his germination and pollination experiments. 

The Irving Biodiversity Collection and the Newell and Evans Legacy (1979-2016)

The E.C. Smith Herbarium is one of three components of the Irving Biodiversity Collection (the other two include the Botanical Gardens and the Seed Bank). The Herbarium was constructed around 2000 and opened in 2002, thanks to a generous donation from the family of Kenneth Colin Irving (1899-1992), a successful businessman and distinguished alumnus of Acadia University.

Ruth Newell and Director Dr. Rodger Evans led the herbarium into the 21st century. Evans, together with library staff Jennifer Richard and Steve MacNeil, led the Canadian-first undertaking of the digitization of tens of thousands of specimens for sharing online on a global scale. Ruth collected well over a thousand new specimens, many of high conservation value, and continued to strengthen the herbarium’s relationship with partners and its local and global reputation. The E.C. Smith Herbarium now contains over 200,000 specimens, including vascular plants, bryophytes, and fungi. It is the largest herbarium in Atlantic Canada and the first Canadian herbarium to have a digital database with scanned images of the collection.


Since 2018, Collections Manager Alain Belliveau and Executive Director Dr. Allison Walker have continued to add high conservation value specimens to the collections while increasing collaboration efforts with the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens and seed bank as well as local and international research partners. Dr. Walker’s expertise in mycology and Belliveau’s proficiency in rare vascular plants and lichens will ensure that the E.C. Smith Herbarium will continue to provide an invaluable resource for Acadia University and the broader scientific community.