In the fall of 1964, Norlyn L. Bodkin joined the Department of Biology at Madison College. During the next 34 years, he taught a variety of courses including General Botany, Plant Taxonomy, Plant Pathology, and Natural History Studies in the Galápagos Islands. In addition to his teaching duties, he took on the responsibility of herbarium Director and Curator. At the time he was hired, the herbarium, which was housed in Burruss Hall consisted of two cabinets and, at most, approximately 2,500 specimens. When Dr. Bodkin retired from teaching in 1998, the herbarium comprised 20 cabinets and well over 13,000 specimens! In addition, it was during his tenure that the herbarium was officially recognized in Index Herbariorum, an international listing of the world’s significant herbaria; and received the acronym JMUH. The growth of the herbarium during Bodkin's tenure may be attributed in large part to his own collections and those of his field botany classes, as well of those of several of his undergraduate and graduate students. Masters theses completed under the tutelage of Bodkin include floristic surveys for Bath County, Orange County, Rockingham County, and the James River Tidal Section. JMUH presently houses a teaching and research collection of bryophytes, ferns and fern allies, gymnosperms, and angiosperms; as well as a small collection of algae. These collections are predominantly from Virginia (particularly the Shenandoah Valley) and West Virginia.

In addition to its plant collection, JMUH houses the James Madison University Herbarium Library, which was presented by the Class of 1980 in memory of William Andrew Wood, a former student in the Department of Biology. This small library now contains a variety of Floras (including the Flora of North America), botany textbooks, identification keys, and journals. The latter include the American Fern Journal, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, Castanea, Rhodora, and Systematic Botany).

The results of Bodkin’s love for botanical fieldwork are also evident in the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, upon which construction began in 1985. Bodkin was not only the first Director of the Arboretum, but the initial driving force behind its conception. The arboretum is now one of the major attractions on the JMU campus. Due to Bodkin’s vision, tenacity and hard work, we are able to experience many different facets of the botanical sciences here at JMU!

Conley K. McMullen, a former graduate student of Bodkin's became Director and Curator of JMUH after his mentor's retirement. In 2012, JMUH, along with the rest of the Department of Biology moved to the new Bioscience Building on East Campus. This facility provides students with a modern, efficient teaching and research area that is more user-friendly than ever before! In addition to 19 full-size herbarium cabinets, JMUH features 14 half-size herbarium cabinets, a complete specimen imaging and databasing station, a full-size drying oven, an upright specimen freezer, a specimen refrigerator, several swing-arm dissecting microscopes (one with camera), three computing stations, and over 20 complete plant presses. Presently, over 18,000 specimens are housed at JMUH. Each of these specimens will eventually be barcoded and photographed. Although the majority of these specimens are from Virginia and West Virginia, several other states are represented as well. A sampling of specimens collected in other countries are those from Canada, Ecuador, and Poland. Our two oldest specimens were gifted to JMUH in 2007 by The Natural History Museum in London, England. They were collected in Portsmouth, Virginia by German botanist Ferdinand Ignatius Xavier Rugel in 1840!