A series of posts from our volunteers …

Diana Wilkinson

Photographic portrait of Diana Wilkinson
Diana Wilkinson

I’m Diana, a former civil servant who worked as a social scientist in the Scottish Government, finally retiring as Chief Social Researcher in 2010. I volunteered to work in the RBGE Library and Archives in 2013, having heard about the opportunity through membership of EDFAS.

Since then I have carried out a wide variety of projects, starting with developing a database of RBGE Guild members and associates so that Garden and family historians can easily access information about the person of interest. This involved working through Guild journals from 1913 to the 1960’s.

Another early project involved cleaning, filing and cataloguing 300 small paintings of fungi (artist unknown) which had been collected in over 30 different sites throughout Scotland between 1914 and 1918.

I have assisted in drafting mini-biographies of famous botanists for the web site; transferred data from historical student registers; re-packaged glass plates of photographs taken by George Forrest  and transcribed letters received by Regius Keeper J.H. Balfour from J.D. Hooker. The last was my least favourite task as mid Victorian handwriting and the spelling of Latin plant names often defeated me.

For the past 18 months I have been conducting an inventory of the RBGE Map Library collection so decisions can be made on retention and storage, and the collection can be better publicised and accessed through an online database. The collection comprises almost 2,000 maps describing topography, geology, vegetation, forestry, climate, agriculture and land use etc. all over the world, many having been acquired by or for RBGE staff on collecting trips.

I enjoy my weekly visits to the Library and meeting other volunteers. Although many of my tasks have involved transferring records to a digital format, I really appreciate the physical environment of a ‘real’ library with knowledgeable staff,  and I hope to continue volunteering for some years to come.