Widespread specimen digitization has greatly enhanced the use of herbarium data in scientific research. Publications using herbarium data have increased exponentially over the last century. Here, we review changing uses of herbaria through time with a computational text analysis of 13,702 articles from 1923 to 2017 that quantitatively complements traditional review approaches. Although maintaining its core contribution to taxonomic knowledge, herbarium use has diversified from a few dominant research topics a century ago (e.g., taxonomic notes, botanical history, local observations), with many topics only recently emerging (e.g., biodiversity informatics, global change biology, DNA analyses). Specimens are now appreciated as temporally and spatially extensive sources of genotypic, phenotypic, and biogeographic data. Specimens are increasingly used in ways that influence our ability to steward future biodiversity. As we enter the Anthropocene, herbaria have likewise entered a new era with enhanced scientific, educational, and societal relevance.

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