Saturday 13 December 2014

The fascinating work of Amy Shelton

A while ago I came across the work of Amy Shelton and wrote a blog spot about her project Honeyscribe. I then completely forgot to publish it… So, here it is:

Work by Amy Sheldon
In her artwork, Amy Shelton, who read History of Art at Manchester University and later Fine Art at the University of Plymouth, constantly reflects on the plight of the honeybee. Back in 2011, in response to her research, Amy began The Honeyscribe Project – something that lead her to produce a fascinating body of work that explored the relationship between bee health, human health and the environment. Her aim was to create a body of work that would encourage a dialogue about bees between scientists, artists, writers, beekeepers and the public. Apparently, the name of the project comes from an original name used in Ancient Egypt. Apparently, a ‘Honey Scribe’ was a person who was given the task of recording every drop of honey produced by the local bees.  Amy borrowed this title as a contemporary Honey Scribe who charters current threats to the health of the honey bee whilst reflecting upon their behaviour.
Amy Shelton preparing her Florilegium

Work by Amy Shelton
Work by Amy Shelton
 This year, back in the Spring (sorry guys – I missed it too as I was in California) Amy curated an exhibition in one of the galleries I once exhibited at – Peninsula Arts in the city of Plymouth – it’s a fantastic space and I recommend it. Shelton’s exhibition was a collaborative one featuring many artists, but also, and more importantly for me, one of her own pieces called: ‘Florilegium: Honey Flow’ - a light box installation that documented the plant sources of the pollen and nectar collected by bees to sustain their colonies. This fascinating body of hand sourced material was, in my opinion, arranged by Shelton in such a beautiful, well thought out way. Hundreds of preserved melliferous plants were collected and pressed over an entire year by Amy. Such a collection on its own acts as an absorbing calendar into the life of both the bee and the plant, but when arranged against a lit backdrop in the way these were, they become beautiful pieces of art in their own right. Through this arrangement, Sheldon reveals the inner beauty of every flower whilst also highlighting their importance. Fantastic!

Work by Amy Shelton

Mona Caron’s Murals of Weeds

Mona Caron, a San Francisco-based artist, does most of her art work in the streets. Recently, 'This is Colossal' did a feature on her work which you can see here: Murals of Weeds. I absolutely love her work. I love the way that she empowers plants and gives them a place in the metropolis. Through her paintings, the most overlooked of plants are brought closer to us and in turn we are forced to consider the fact that the city is just as much as place for them as it is for us.

Dandelion by Mona Caron
Mona Caron, a San Francisco-based artist, does most of her art work in the streets. Recently, 'This is Colossal' did a feature on her work which you can see here: Murals of Weeds. I absolutely love her work. I love the way that she empowers plants and gives them a place in the metropolis. Through her paintings, the most overlooked of plants are brought closer to us and in turn we are forced to consider the fact that the city is just as much as place for them as it is for us.

Mona Caron painting her Dandelion

Taking Root by Mona Caron
really love Taking Root. I love the way it glows as the sun rises (or sets - can't quite work it out). I think it's pretty cleverly thought out. This 7 story tall mural apparently features the first tiny wildflower that made it back to a barren piece of land in Union City, California, after its rehabilitation from industrial pollution. Mona worked with the new inhabitants of this specific area and they added welcoming phrases in their many native languages to the roots of the painting, so it is very much a community piece. You can see more about Taking Root on this video:

Thursday 4 December 2014

Charles Jones

Here’s another artist I had never heard about until recently… On their return from England, my Mum and stepdad Andrew splashed out on a magazine at Gatwick Airport. It’s a beautiful magazine – possibly one of the most elegant publications I have ever laid my hands on. It's almost more bookish in appearance, or maybe a periodical, and is called ‘The Art Book Magazine’. You can see a digital version of the journal here:, but I recommend actually splashing out on a real copy if you can find one as embracing the pages is such a delight. The idea behind The Art Book Magazine was conjured up by the genius Oscar Humphries, who wanted to create a publication that celebrated the beauty of art unlike most contemporary sources. In his words ‘what we need is a magazine that presents, in a contemporary way, the best art ever made: those masterpieces that engage, at once, the heart and the head’.  

Broad Beans by Charles Jones

So yes, I was just flicking through and getting a feel when Charles Harry Jones (1866-1959) popped up. Well, his images did. There they were, in all their glory; beautifully plump, velvety broad beans lined in metallic, militant rows. The work reminded me of Karl Blossfeldt (1865 –1932), but I knew straight away that it wasn't Blossfeldt’s work. This work was more organic and natural. In fact, I have thought about these two photographers all week since seeing Jones’ work for the first time and it’s taken me this long to write this post because of it. It irritated me that I couldn’t really put into words how the work from these two photographers differed, but it does. I wanted to say that Jones’ work was more sensual, but then some of Blossfeldt’s work is very sensual. I wanted to say Jones’ work has a tranquil quality to it, but so does Blossfeldt’s. After much thought I have concluded that the difference between the two comes to the level of processing when orchestrating their compositions. One can see that Charles was quite clearly showing how beautiful the fruits of his labour really were and maybe that's all there is.

Pea pods by Charles Jones

You see, Charles was actually an English gardener. From the 1890s, Charles Harry Jones began to work on a number of private estates in England as a gardener, including Great Ote Hall, near Burgess Hill in Sussex. In this profession he was renowned enough to have been featured in a glowing 1905 article in The Gardener's Chronicle about his place of employment.  It stated in part, "The present gardener, Charles Jones, has had a large share in the modelling of the gardens as they now appear for on all sides can be seen evidences of his work in the making of flowerbeds and borders and in the planting of fruit trees, etc..."  Sadly though, what no one realized then, or for another seventy-five years, was that this same gardener was also this brilliant photographer of uncommon sensitivity who chose as his subject matter the very produce and plants which he grew. It is in his treatment of vegetables and fruits that Jones really did transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Charles Jones

The strength of Jones's photographs is in the subtlety of his arrangement, lighting and focus.  They do not have the over the top decorative qualities typical of the Edwardian age in which they were created.  Instead, his works anticipate the modernism of photographers  such as Edward Weston and Karl Blossfeldt without the attendant formalism of twentieth century aesthetics.  The photographs of Charles Jones certainly have a simplicity to them, that is spare and direct.

Karl Blossfeldt

Cabbage Leaf by Edward Weston

Pepper by Edward Weston

Jones's work was sadly never exhibited in his lifetime, and his talent as a photographer went largely unknown, even to his family. He died in Lincolnshire on 15 November 1959, aged ninety-two. After his death, Charles’ exquisite photographs of fruits, vegetables and flowers remained hidden for a further 22 years, until they were finally discovered by accident in a trunk, along with hundreds of other Edwardian era photographs by Sean Sexton at Bermondsey antiques market. Apparently, two-thirds of the collection mainly comprised of vegetables and the remaining third was evenly divided between between fruits and flowers.  The photographs were fastidiously annotated with the name of each plant followed by the initials ‘C.J.’, although a few had the full name of the photographer.  Meticulously printed gold-toned silver prints from glass plate negatives, the majority of the photographs were unique with very few duplicates. Since Sexton's discovery, the collection has slowly been dispersed by him through auction houses and by other means. According to Charles Jones's granddaughter, Shirley Sadler, Charles was a private and uncommunicative individual, and she confirmed that his activities as a photographer were virtually unknown to his family. However, she did recount her aged grandfather using some discarded glass plates as cloches in his garden...

Cauliflowers by Charles Jones

Luckily for us, Charles Jones has been the subject of a book by Robert Flynn Johnson and Sean Sexton with a preface by Alice Waters called Plant Kingdoms: The Photographs of Charles Jones (Smithmark Publishers, New York, 1998). So, if you want to read more on the subject I suggest that might be a good place to start.  If you want to see his work in the flesh, his vintage photographs can be found in the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, San Francisco, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Further reading:

Charles Jones

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Miron Schmückle

Oh my God, where have I been...?! I have just discovered this artist's work and I adore it. I can't stop looking at it, in fact it might even replace my current desk top background.  Check out the work of Romanian artist Miron Schmückle if you have a minute. It's pretty unusual and far out, but I am completely captivated by it. I like how his work really plays on the senses; it is very cleverly done. The pieces are almost musical. 

Untitled, 2011, tempera on canvas on wood, 55x75cm, by Miron Schmückle

Botanical Archives (out of my brain) by Miron Schmückle 
A bit about Miron: 

He was Born in Sibu, Romania in 1966. He studied experimental painting at Muthesius Art School in Kiel and Performance art in Art Academy Hamburg. He was also a teaching assistant at the Theatre Academy Saint Petersburg in Russia. In 1997 he moved to Hamburg where he had his studio until 2008. He then moved to Berlin for a bit and later returned to the Muthesius Art Academy in Kiel for the Doctoral Program.

There is a fabulous little interview with him here

Botanical Archives (out of my brain) by Miron Schmückle 

Untitled, 2011, pencil, Indian ink, watercolor on paper, 140x87cm, by Miron Schmückle 

Botanical Archives (out of my brain) by Miron Schmückle 

Botanical Archives (out of my brain) by Miron Schmückle 

“As You Desire Me”. Installation view at MANZONI SCHÄPER, Berlin 2011, by Miron Schmückle

Monday 1 December 2014

Egon Schiele's Botanical Drawings

So whilst scanning the internet for images, I also came across some of Egon Schiele's work (1890 –  1918)A protégé of Gustav Klimt, Schiele was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. His work is mostly noted for its intensity. His exquisite use of a simple, singular, expressive line marks the artist as an early exponent of Expressionists. It his depictions of twisted body shapes and raw sexuality that he is most known for, but I feel less is said about his botanical works. I for one didn't know that he ever made studies of plants. I am not sure how that skipped me by, but nevertheless it did. Maybe I was just so captivated by his portraits that I didn't bother looking for anything else?

Field of Flowers by Egon Schiele

Regardless of this though, I have at last come across his studies and I have to say I really rather like them. It's his use of line that fascinates me more than anything; the slightly emaciated look of his subjects and the way he places the object on the canvas. The compositions don't appear to be very structured possibly conveying the very chaotic nature of the wild. The plants seem to 'dance' on the page - they all look very theatrical and slightly animated. I particularly like his sunflower at the end of this post and his piece titled 'Autumn', the latter of which reminds me of the fields behind my studio at the moment. 

Autumn Sun and Trees by Egon Schiele

Field of Flowers by Egon Schiele

Young Trees with Support by Egon Schiele, 1912

Blumenstudie by Egon Schiele, 1918

Foxglove by Egon Schiele

Weiße Chrysantheme by Egon Schiele, 1910

Sunflower II by Egon Schiele

Autumn by Egon Schiele

Sonnenbaum (Sunlit tree) by Egon Schiele, 1910

Sunflower by Egon Schiele

Saturday 22 November 2014

Overcoming the Fear

This week I am attempting a hat trick... and if all goes to plan, I might even do a four-trick, but I reckon that's pushing too hard. Three is a nice number. It's a magic number. One should always plant in threes, so maybe they should paint like that too? So yes - signed the Purple beans on Monday (it's great feeling isn't it?), and the Conkers and the Hosta today . Although the latter is not quite complete, I have done it as a way of telling myself that it damn well will be). 

I am aware that Cos and the Corona de Espinas need to be finished in the back of my mind, maybe I'll attack them next week if I am in the mood, and then I can get on with some new work.  

Therefore yesterday was spent overcoming my fear of Harry the Hosta and basically getting on with it. Life doesn't stop and I knew in the back of my mind that the flower wasn't too dark, it really was that dark in the room, it was just that the painted leaves were not yet dark enough which made the flower look really sinister. Anyway - I sat down and paid some attention to Harry's base - he needed some serious grounding. It took me half a day and I got very annoyed with him. I furiously raked the lawn and went back indoors and attempted a bit more. I got annoyed again, so I made some tea... Then went back in... I did a bit more... Then I had to do a papery bit and couldn't do it. I got annoyed again. I walked over to my bookshelf and got my 'Colours of Reality' book out and had a look at Rory McEwen's papery onions, then went back to my papery bit. Managed it, but not as well as Rory. Got annoyed again because of this. Had a bath, had a beer and gave up.

Day two... did the odd chore around the house and then entered the studio at 11am. Opened the shutters, watered my Plymouth Strawberry, said hello to Ophelia and Cindy and peeled back the plastic wrapping which had tucked Harry in for the night. My reaction: Utter surprise at how grounded Harry now is and feeling a bit more content about the whole endeavour - the flower now at last fits in. Phew - saved...! Maybe this is something worth baring in mind in the future - when I next paint a top heavy plant I might need to ground them first or as soon as I can. Note taken!

So I then painted for an hour on the left leaf and then had lunch in the sunshine while it was out and decided to not go for a walk but to face Harry's leaves for the rest of the day... Carried on with the left leaf and turned the painting around like I did the flower. I am not a fan of doing this as you can't really translate what you are seeing very effectively, but I am finding it hard work getting all those parallel veins in horizontally. My shoulder just doesn't want to move in the right direction. I also feel that it is ok to turn it this time as that is what I did with the flower and you never know - using the same technique might help all the bits talk to one another as a whole?! It's a wild notion.

Painted for what felt like ages (but it wasn't) and mum made me a tea. I drank the tea and turned the piece around. I was pleased, very pleased - what a GREAT FEELING! The leaf is darker and now the flower stem looks even more part of the piece. I think we are ok everyone - I think Harry has been saved and I have managed to grow some balls in the process. Superb. 

So now I am working on the right leaf. I haven't finished the back one yet, but remember how I like to 'weave' around the paper... 

So let's finish Harry today and then who knows...

Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Muirhead Herbarium

Recently I was contacted by Plymouth University about the work I did on their Muirhead Herbarium back in 2007. Seemed a little odd at the time as I had just nipped into London from Spain and so my mind was not only having trouble in time travelling backwards to a previous life I had in London, but it then had the further onslaught of going back even further to another time in Devon, which was actually when I first started writing this blog. 

As I sat in Tate Modern talking on the phone to this lovely lady about where particular specimens were and which parts of the herbarium need to be imaged and which not (if one had to give priority), I realised that it would be a jolly good thing to publish some of the material I wrote and found at the time online, so it is available to all who need it as a resource. So here goes:

The Muirhead Memorial Herbarium* is located in 220A on the second floor of the Davy building located in the main Plymouth University Campus.  It is in a very small room which is situated to the side of the main lecture theatre which hmens access is limited to when the lecture theatre is not being used, so no one really ever goes in there. When I first went inside it felt like I was digging up a time capsule. The room was littered with old cigarette butts and packets, old newspapers and chocolate bar wrappers with redundant price tags on. It was like being in Gene Hunt's office in 'Life on Mars'.

The University of Plymouth originally had assorted collections of biological specimens to assist with teaching, but the herbarium was augmented in 1984, when Miss Clara Muirhead bequeathed her herbarium to the University (Fothergill and Hallett, 2000). Later, the specimens from the 1987 Habitat Project were amalgamated in to the Muirhead collection and the herbarium grew further in size.

The Muirhead Memorial Herbarium houses collections of vascular plants, bryophytes, fungi, algae and spirit stored specimens. The geographical range is mainly limited to parts of Scotland, Ireland, Cumberland and Devon and specimens date from the 1940’s to the present, although there are a few older, tropical specimens. Most of these specimens are new donations and have not yet been properly mounted or taxonomically sorted, where others are attached to the Muirhead collection. A recent donation from Seale Hayne has also provided the herbarium with a new agricultural collection of mainly old wheat (Triticum) varieties.  These specimens are also not suitably mounted or taxonomically arranged and are in a very poor state. 

The current standard of care for all of these specimens has been inadequate in recent years due to a lack of funding. The use of non-archival materials and the use of specimens in teaching are continuing to endanger the longevity of the collection and associated data (Fothergill and Hallett, 2000). Further to this, the size of the room is not sufficient for the volume of material present. Many of the un-mounted specimens are not catalogued and are not being stored correctly. With a lack of cupboards, specimens are being stored in boxes where access to them is extremely limited. With there being no dedicated budget for the herbarium, the room has become dated. It is recommended that in the future the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium is housed in a larger, more modern and accessible room. 

At this point it is important to note that digitising and creating a database is only a small facet of a working herbarium. Databases with digital images are used to reduce the handling of fragile specimens, and also to make the herbarium more accessible to outside institutions.  Alone, databases are not sufficient to ensure the prolonged existence of a herbarium.  Herbaria need to be cared for by trained personnel.  The Muirhead Memorial Herbarium, for example, is in desperate need of physical attention.  Many specimens need to be mounted and catalogued, the room needs to be made airtight and the specimens need to be frozen regularly in order to reduce the chances of insect attack. On inspection some of the specimens in the room have already been damaged by insects.  Further to this a digital image, although useful for teaching, is inadequate for the taxonomist.  For scientific study the mounted specimen, along with its collection data is needed.  Therefore it is important to note that although the rest of this report will be exploring the methods used for digitising and databasing herbaria, that this alone is a fragment of a larger project.  It is also important to note that full digitisation of the entire herbarium cannot go ahead until the rest of the specimens have been mounted.  Mounting needs to be done by trained staff using archival material. 

Noteworthy collections present in the herbarium:

Miss Clara Winsome Muirhead (1915-1985) Collection

Figure 1: Miss Clara Winsome Muirhead

Miss Clara Winsome Muirhead (CWM) was a notable botanist of the time (figure 1).  She worked at both Carlisle Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  She joined the BSBI in 1952 and became active on the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) committee for the study of Scottish flora.  Her interests within botany were wide but her main curiosities included mosses, succulents and cacti – notably Sempervivum, roses and Cassiope. This is clearly evident in the Memorial Herbarium, with their being noteworthy collections of these particular groups of plants. In fact, her enthusiasm for Sempervivum also resulted in an increase in the living collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Win revised this genus for the Flora of Turkey.  Amongst her other works she also wrote a monograph on Cassiope lycopodioides. To mark her liking for Cassiope, the well known plantsman R. B. Cooke (who wrote to Win frequently) named his cultivar C. ‘Muirhead’ (C. wardii x lycopodioides) after her.

Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958)
Figure 2: Frank Kingdon-Ward

Frank Kingdon-Ward (figure 2) was born on 6th November 1885 at Withington, Lancashire.  Inspired by his father, a botanist, Frank acquired a love for nature and this; with his dreams of travel lead him to become a plant hunter.  Frank travelled to Burma, Tibet and Assam in order to find new plants and is one of the last of the famous plant hunters (Musgrave, Gardner and Musgrave, 2000).  Most of the Kingdon-Ward collection is held in the Royal Botanic Garden Kew, although some specimens are in other large institutions such as Edinburgh.  It is common knowledge that there are a few missing specimens from his entire collection (missing collection numbers), and much has been done to track them down.  It was therefore a delight when a few specimens that were collected by Frank Kingdon-Ward (FKW) were found within the Muirhead collection (cabernet four). 

The specimens were Cassiope species and they have been mounted and labelled by Clara Muirhead in her own hand.  Each specimen has its own FKW collection number.  These specimens are extremely valuable historically and should not be housed in cabernet four with the un-mounted and unsorted specimens, which is where they currently lay.  It is recommended that these specimens are moved to a more organised cabernet. One other aspect which is also of importance is the possibility of tracking down the letters that were sent between FKW and CWM as these are part of the FKW collection.  The letters have been seen by various members of staff in the past, but during this study it was not possible to locate them. If the letters have gone astray, this further reinforces the need for more stringent rules for access into the herbarium.

George Forrest (1873-1932)
Figure 3: George Forrest
George Forrest (figure 3) was born on 13th March 1873 in Falkirk, and after his education at the Kilmarnock Academy he was employed by a pharmaceutical chemist.  It was there where he learnt about the medicinal properties of many plants and how to dry, label and mount herbarium specimens (Musgrave, Gardner and Musgrave, 2000).  After some time, Forrest then started to work for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as an assistant in their herbarium.  In 1904 he got the opportunity to travel to China to collect new plants suited to British gardens.  From then on he became a plant hunter, bringing back more than 30,000 plants, many of which ended up being cultivated in British gardens (Musgrave, Gardner and Musgrave, 2000).  Most of his collection books and specimens are now housed at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.  However, cabinet four in the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium appears to also house several Cassiope specimens that had been collected by George Forrest.  Again all the specimens have been mounted and labelled by Clara Muirhead in her own hand and all of them have Forrest’s individual collection numbers.  This tiny collection of specimens is also very unique for a small herbarium and historically important.

Habitat 1987 Collection

In 1987, forty unemployed people joined a project to survey the Plymouth Flora.  Four of the team were involved in remounting the Muirhead herbarium. Nick Bragg was involved in mounting the material collected from this survey and Dr. Andy Stevens (figure 1.4) and Monica Rowland sorted these mounted specimens, along with the rest of the herbarium, amalgamating the new specimens with the Muirhead collection. The Habitat 1987 collection is extremely important, and the only record of the flora in Plymouth at that particular time.

James Burkill Collection
Figure 4: James Burkhill Collection which is in desperate need of cataloguing and filing
A recent donation to Plymouth University has allowed the institution to obtain several books, papers and herbarium specimens that belonged to Mr. James Burkill, a botanist who worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Currently, there is very little information on the internet about this botanist, but from his specimen collection it is clear that he was particularly interested in seaweeds and tropical flora. There are several specimens that had been collected from south eastern Asia and Africa, all of which have written labels on the newspaper files which they lay between. A collection of his note books and published material was also donated, and this half of the collection is kept in room B406 in the Portland Square Building. The Burkhill collection is unmounted and unsorted and is currently being stored in cardboards boxes (figure 1.5). This type of storage is unsuitable and the specimens are in urgent need of mounting, especially as newspaper is known to degrade very quickly, and this could lead to the loss of this valuable collection.

Seale Hayne Collection

Figure 5
Figure 6

The Seale Hayne Collection (figures 5 and 6) is the latest addition to the Muirhead. The specimens were brought over from the Seale Hayne campus during this project and are currently being housed in room 201 in the Davy Building. Some of the loose specimens have been placed on the work bench in the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium for safe-keeping until further cataloguing can be done.  The specimens that were added to the herbarium have been wrapped in polythene bags to prevent insect attack.

Please note that the collections mentioned in this report are not the only collections in the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium, and have only been reviewed here because they were either a new addition to the herbarium, or they were considered important. Please refer to Fothergill and Hallett (2001) for the full inventory of the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium. 

Chapter 5: The Future of the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium
The Muirhead Memorial Herbarium, as it is to date, is not dynamic.  It is not being used for research, teaching or promotion and therefore it is a dead-space.  It would therefore be beneficial to the University of Plymouth to amend how the herbarium is used and how it functions in order to maximise the use of space on the campus.  Such changes do not have to involve the purchasing of expensive pieces of equipment, but does require the construction of an online catalogue/database for the specimens, and a short term contract so that someone can complete the mounting of the specimens in the boxes and in cabinets one - four.  Below are listed some of the ways in which the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium could be used by the University in the future and the benefits associated with databasing the specimens.

Future Collecting and teaching

With a small amendment on the teaching syllabus for some courses, the Muirhead Herbarium could become a useful tool for teaching and future research.  Plant collecting and pressing could be incorporated as a feature of field courses, along with data entry.  Biology students could be assessed on their ability to collect, press, label and enter data onto the database like the students are in RBGE.  Such activities would be advantageous to the University, as it could generate voluntary students who may be willing to help with the upkeep of the Muirhead Herbarium in the future.

Collecting plants abroad could also strengthen the links that the University has with institutions over seas.  This could place Plymouth University on the map as a centre for biodiversity research and conservation, which links into sustainability. The University could not only practice conservation on its campus, but also abroad.  Many current projects that are currently run through IUCN now involve the use of herbaria.  Red lists are often generated by measuring collection rates of plants species in herbaria.  Similar assignments could generate interesting research projects for students, which could increase student interest and promote the reputation of the University.

Promoting use within the University and locality

The Habitat 1987 collection mainly focuses on the flora of Plymouth and the surrounding areas.  Therefore, it is of importance to local wildlife organisations and university staff and students as an environmental and botanical reference.  By generating a digital database, access to information about this collection would be improved and this could potentially increase the interest in the herbarium, further adding to the value to the space and improving the reputation of the University.  Improving and strengthening the ties between the City Museum and the University of Plymouth would further add value to the herbarium, especially if it was used for events such as Science Week or on open days, such as those held in Edinburgh. RBGE frequently invites the general public into their herbarium for talks and tours.

Promoting use to outside bodies

As the older collection is primarily made up of material from Cumberland and Scotland it would be appropriate to promote the use of the collection by other interested bodies.  Many institutions such as universities, museums and botanical gardens in these areas maybe interested in referring to the Muirhead collection. If images were taken of the specimens and placed on a database, institutions in these areas could refer to the collections with ease.  This would also reduce the need to loan out specimens as well, helping to reduce complications in the running of the herbarium.  It is also suggested that if a digitisation project goes ahead, then it should be advertised, not only in University magazines, but in more public magazines such as ‘The Garden’ (RHS).


As mentioned by Fothergill and Hallett (2001), the general condition of the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium is satisfactory, but some work does need to be done, the most crucial of which is the development of a database to reduce handling and to ensure that all the specimens are catalogued.  Maintenance and updating the windows in room 220A is also very important, as further deterioration of the seals could pose a threat to the collections in the future.  If the University of Plymouth cannot refurbish, conserve and utilize the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium then it is strongly suggested that the herbarium is moved to in an institution that can.  During the writing of their report, Fothergill and Hallett (2001) found that Carlisle Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) were interested in having the collections made by Clara Winsome Muirhead back, especially if they were in danger of being lost.  During construction of this report, the current curator of RBGE was made aware of the agreement made by the previous curator, and he now recognises that the Muirhead Memorial Herbarium is an important collection which is historically attached to the herbarium at RBGE.  Further to this, Helen Fothergill at the Plymouth City Museum has shown interest in housing the Habitat 1987 collection with their local herbarium if the Muirhead was ever at risk.

*A herbarium is a collection of preserved plants stored, catalogued and arranged systematically for study by botanists, ecologists, historians, geographers and even artists. The specimens that that are stored in a herbarium are a working reference collection used in the identification of plants, the writing of Floras, monographs and red lists, the study of plant evolutionary relationships and other DNA researchA herbarium is like a library or vast catalogue and each plant specimen has its own unique information – where it was found, when it flowers and what it looks like.


Frank Kingdon Ward Collection Numbers

3311 – Cassiope sp.                                        8285 – C. wardii
5663a – C. fastigiata                                       6942 – C. pectinata
5663b - C. fastigiata                                        5663c - C. fastigiata

George Forrest Collection Numbers

19068 – C. macrantha                                    19069 – Cassiope sp.
30874 – C. macrantha                                    23560 – Cassiope. sp.
10443 – C. macrantha                                    19495 – C. macrantha
30874 – C. macrantha                                    28746 – C. pectinata
489 – C. pectinata                                           1675 – C. pectinata
30488 – C. pectinata