I was interested in touring the botanical gardens because the university I work at is entertaining the idea of starting a medicinal garden. I thought that it would be interesting to see how the botanical gardens got its start.
The library is 160 years old, although Kew Gardens was founded in 1759. There were originally two gardens. Currently, there are 300,000 volumes of books and pamphlets, 5,000 periodicals, and 200,000 pieces of botanic art.There are 7 million sheets of paper in the archives. There are 30,000 items that are added to the archives in a year. The archives and the illustrations are not cataloged.
Andrew Wilshire talked with our group first about Beatrix Potter. It was really interesting to hear about her history and interest in fungi. He told of how she kept a journal, but wrote in a code of her own making. Beatrix Potter came from upper-middle class, and had a wealthy, domineering mother. A man named Leslie Linder tried to break the code of the journals. It took him five years to break the code, four years to translate, and another four to get it published. Potter’s most famous book was a book of a little rabbit named Peter. Between the ages of 25 to 30, she became interest in Fungi. She figured out that fungi spread by spores in the ground. She wrote of her findings, but was turned down when she tried to present her research to Kew Gardens because she was a woman.
The library is more interested in botany than they are in the study of horticulture. Botany is the study of plants that grow naturally. One of the challenges that the botanical gardens has is putting the information or items into the hand of the public is difficult.
After touring the library and archive, we were able to explore the gardens.