Date Visited: June 11, 2014
Kew Gardens is the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens were established in 1840; prior to this the land was owned by a private family. The collection contains seven million sheets of paper about botany. The oldest book in the library’s collection dates from the 1300’s. The book is about herbal cures and contains several pictures which were very important because not many people could read so they would depend on the pictures to identify the plant.
Our class was given a tour by Fiona Myles. I found it really interesting that Ms. Myles does not wear gloves while handling the materials. She explained that wearing gloves actually damages the material more than when someone uses their hands. It was also beneficial when Ms. Myles discussed red rot with us. From previous experience I knew that leather bindings had a detrimental effect on the paper and materials in books; however, I did not know the exact name for it and that it does not help to rebind the books.
Ms. Myles shared a lot of really useful information with us while she was conducting her tour. She explained that the biggest threats to her collections are fire and pests. They have over seven million dried specimens in their collection and they add around 30,000 species per year. In order to keep pests out of these specimens they freeze the specimens whenever pests get in. This is the best way to get rid of the pests without causing any damage to the specimens.
Another thing I found striking was when Ms. Myles told us about Beatrix Potter. I had no idea that Potter had accomplished so much in her lifetime. It is so intriguing that she was the first individual to publish a paper explaining how fungi reproduce. It is also somewhat sad that she accurate theory was ignored for so long. After the tour we were given a lecture by Andrew Wiltshire relaying the story of how Leslie Linder cracked Beatrice Potter’s code in order to translate her journals. Potter wrote her journal in code, and Linder managed to crack her code after studying the journals for five years. After this visit I am now very curious and anxious to read her journals myself.
I had never had much interest in plants. I have never studied them, but after my visit to Kew Gardens I now have more interest than I ever did before. After the tour and lecture we were privileged enough to be allowed to tour the grounds. The grounds were absolutely beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there.