Nancy Adams was one of New Zealand's foremost botanists and botanical artists. Her watercolours and drawings are widely known through reproduction in nearly forty publications on native trees and shrubs, alpine plants, wild flowers and seaweeds that she has written and illustrated. Her books have helped many New Zealanders to learn more about the native flora of their country.
Nancy Adams joined the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa) in 1959, eventually specialising in marine algae and developing the museum's seaweed collection. She retired in 1987 from the position Assistant Curator of Botany and became an honorary Research Associate of the museum. World-renowned for her work on seaweeds, in 1994 she produced the highly regarded Seaweeds of New Zealand: an illustrated guide which was the 1995 Montana book of the year.
In 2006 a substantial collection of watercolours, drawings, sketchbooks and ephemera by Nancy Adams was purchased for the Te Papa Archive. Works include illustrations for Adams' numerous publications such as Seaweeds of New Zealand: an illustrated guide, Common seaweeds of New Zealand, Trees and shrubs of New Zealand, New Zealand native trees volumes 1 and 2, and New Zealand alpine plants.