Visit to Kew

As part of the Icon Adapt & Evolve 2015 conference, I went on a visit to the conservation lab at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Timely! I got all kinds of ideas for ways to attach the plants. One made little paper straps over the very bottoms of the stems, wide enough to put the names of the plants on them (top row, right). 

We also saw one of the store rooms; we were supposed to be looking at pith paper & Japanese papers from the Parkes collection, which were fantastic, but also there were so many jars of things. 

Mark Nesbitt gave a lovely tour of all the treasures, and we got to see Kew's collection of tools for making pith paper, as well as the set of original 19th c.  drawings attempting to depict its making. The pith sort of glows from behind the pigments; it's fantastic. The flowers on the left below were conserved by a Camberwell student the first year I was teaching there, and she did a great job. There were a lot of old Camberwell conservation projects there, actually; it's like looking through a college yearbook.

We saw some botanical drawings on pith upstairs in the conservation lab as well, and talked through the conservation issues. It's really brittle when dry and tended to be mounted (in this context—export art for the European market) with ribbons around the edge, gluing it down to a rigid support. The tension makes the pith unable to contract, so it splits.

And finally... the nice store room next to the reading room deserves a mention. They built it with windows in the walls, so you can see books that are restricted access but nice to look at, and also with this little exhibition space, like a shop window. I would imagine it also does something for security as well. A treat for readers, because it feels like looking at something secret!

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