A series of posts from our volunteers …
Simon Muirhead – Trawling through the Archive
For some years I have been a member of EDFAS [Edinburgh Decorative and Fine Arts Soc.] In 2017 I was invited to volunteer to help in the Library and Lorna asked if I would sieve through the accumulated archive to do an initial record onto the RBGE database. Years ago I had worked in the British Museum [Antiquities] and became naturally interested in researching and explaining the past.
Each Wednesday I work my way through a box of letters, documents, photos, etc and record the source of each: it’s date, to whom and from whom with addresses if known and finally a description and precis of the content.
The range is vast. So far I have worked on material from the 1830s to the near present. Reports from botanists exploring often little-known parts of the world, detailed correspondence between sponsors of botanic ventures with their advice and their worries.
- The 1850’s Oregon enterprise ending in the still unexplained disappearance of the collector.
- Attempts by RBGE botanists to penetrate the northern warring states of Myanmar after WW2 .
- The passionate Hawaiian correspondent in his battle to protect and preserve the islands’ unique flora.
- Letters by past Regius Professors and directors showing their determination to maintain and develop the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as a centre for research and scholarship and for the public, their correspondence with influential people and government departments.
I could go on and on.
Such a variety of subject matter with the added pleasure of being [for me] in an oasis of air-conditioned calm. Archives are endless I am glad to say?
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