Friday, 7 February 2014

Herbarium heaven

This is my new favourite place to be, the herbarium at RBGE. It's like a library only it has thousands of dried plants in it. And microscopes.  And it is quiet and climate controlled.

Like many libraries, anyone can use it, all you have to do is email the nice staff and tell them what you want to look at.

Here I'm looking at an Acacia cornigera that was collected from Tobago in 1909. I'm enjoying the strange and very direct connection to the cultural histories that these dusty old labels have too.

The plan is to make a lovely Botanical Illustration of this plant....

As for the specimens themselves, I think they are magical. Rachel Pedder-Smith has lots of interesting things to say about herbarium specimens in her thesis. She considers the specimens as objects, as well as plant material subjects. I realise I am thinking of them more as sort of toenails - discarded parts of living beings - and of the human agents who use them as the sort of witches that go around gathering bits of people in order to do magic on them. Or maybe saintly relic sorts of things. Something slightly more animated with its own self rather than solely by the human interactions with it, at any rate, albeit rendered extraordinary by being seen through a special human prism. I haven't  finished thinking about that so I'll say no more for now, given the risk of deteriorating into talking Pure Balls.

No comments:

Post a Comment