Friday, July 11, 2014

Kew Botanic Gardens Archive

Today we visited Kew Botanic Gardens Archive. The collection contains 300,000 books, 5000 periodicals, and 200,000 illustrations. Almost all of these are about botany or Kew itself. They also have a conservator on staff. One of the main conservation projects they do is to repair tears and folds in the images. They also try to decrease the amount of acidic glue and paper touching the illustrations.

When we got there, we saw some books with gorgeous illustrations in them. One of the books was from 1370! I was amazed at how vivid the colors in the illustrations were, since the book was more than 600 years old! The book was about using plants for remedies. It is written in Latin, and most of the cures described are terrible ideas and would not work. Some of the books show plants from the Americas.

The book published in 1370

An example of the incredible illustrations

Beatrix Potter also came to Kew to research fungi. We got to see her signature in the visitor's log! At the time she researched at Kew, all the professionals in the field were men. The director was patronizing towards her because she was a woman. For that reason, she stopped coming to Kew to research. The collection contains two illustrations done by Potter, and a letter written by her. 

Beatrix Potter's signature 

We also got to hear a lecture given by Andrew Wiltshire. He discussed his family's connection to Beatrix Potter. It was very interesting to hear. He also talked about Beatrix Potter's journals, and how they were written in code. The coding wasn't deciphered until 1958 by a man named Leslie Linder. Andrew Wiltshire grew up in the same town as Leslie Linder, and their families were connected through several different links. Andrew Wiltshire was very captivating, and I enjoyed hearing about Beatrix Potter, as I was not very familiar with her life.

After the lecture, we were allowed to tour Kew Gardens and Palace. They were stunning. We walked around a greenhouse that had plants from different ecosystems. The orchids were gorgeous. We also got to see inside Kew Palace. It was a lot smaller than I imagined it would be. It seemed more like a large house than a palace. We also walked on a treetop walkway, which was scary! It was neat being up in the trees looking down, but I don't like heights!

Orchids in the greenhouse

Kew Gardens was a great class trip. Andrew Wiltshire's lecture was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing the plant illustrations. I also enjoyed exploring the Gardens themselves! 

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