Former Botany Collections Manager

Medium shot of Botany collections manager Rusty Russell in a white shirt against a beige wall holding a plant while explaining
Rusty Russell explaining a plant to a group of students. Photo courtesy of Danielle Leland, Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

After growing up in west Baltimore, Rusty Russell’s interest in plants was fueled by a single year living in southern Indiana, riding his bike over limestone rich hills, and collecting plants for an 8th grade science class project. Returning to the East Coast, he attended the University of Maryland and started visiting the National Museum of Natural History to study regional floras. Upon graduation, Rusty began working in the Department of Botany … and stayed for a long time. At the age of 25, he was appointed Collections Manager of the U.S. National Herbarium and for more than 30 years Rusty built collections, information, and education programs for the department.  

Rusty has continued to satisfy his innate curiosity about plants by collecting throughout North America, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil. Rusty designed the first intern program at NMNH, introduced bar code technology to the Museum, created innovative digital imaging programs, and has developed two Museum-wide cataloging projects – The Field Book Project and The Map Project. Most recently he has been researching 19th century exploring expeditions. Rusty is especially proud of his influence on hundreds of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students whom he has mentored over the years. He is now the Director of the Gantz Family Collections Center at The Field Museum in Chicago.