The Changing Perspectives: a garden through time project at Cambridge University Botanic Garden is just over half way and research is revealing some of the fascinating stories, ideas and philosophies behind the making and shaping the garden since the 1950s. For this project, a variety of written and living sources are being consulted. These include the Botanic Garden’s annual reports, specialist botanical publications such as the esteemed Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, and significantly some of key people who have been involved with the Garden, botany or plant science from the mid-twentieth century to the early twenty-first century.
In May, Emeritus Professor John Parker (pictured above), Director of the Botanic Garden for fifteen years (between 1996 and 2010) was interviewed for the Changing Perspective project on a visit to the Garden. Professor Parker’s directorship coincided with a major new chapter in the Garden’s history – the construction of the Sainsbury Laboratory of Plant Science. Since its inception, learning and research have been integral to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. As a champion of public engagement and of the appreciation of plants through knowledge, Professor Parker promoted an active agenda for eduction to all ages during his years in the Garden. Today, the Botanic Garden’s educational programme includes primary and secondary school children, as well as children and adults of all ages wishing to learn about plants, nature and the environment on a more creative or informal basis.
During his visit, Professor John Parker gave a talk on behalf of The Galapagos Conservation Trust in the John Gilmour suite. Entitled ‘The Five Weeks that Changed the World’, his talk linked the Galapagos Islands and Charles Darwin with his mentor, Cambridge professor of Botany and founder of the new Botanic Garden, John Henslow. The plant specimens collected by Darwin on the Beagle’s voyage to the Galapagos are now part of the historic Cambridge Herbarium collection. These are held in the Herbarium’s new home within the Sainsbury Laboratory of Plant Science.
The Changing Perspectives project continues the approach of the University of Cambridge Museum to make its incredible collections more accessible to wider audiences. The results of this research will be presented in an online digital exhibition of the contemporary history of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the 1950s. The Changing Perspectives: a garden through time exhibition website will be launched in September 2013. Watch this space.