Picture this; early afternoon, a gloriously sunny day, you have enjoyed an excellent glass of Youngs bitter, walked across a village green where a late summer game of cricket is being played & suddenly come across what looks like a stray from a classy fancy dress party.
This weekend was Open House London. You know the one, where lots of buildings not normally open to the public throw open their doors & positively welcome us in with open arms. I have visited a few buildings over the past few years, & not visited even more, but the one I enjoyed most & visited again this weekend was the Herbarium at Kew Gardens. A little history of the herbarium can be found here.
I find the whole place fascinating & would happily spend hours there. We started off in the original building where not only is a sense of history engendered by the dark wood panels & portraits & busts of Hooker, Bentham & Broomfield, but actual history is right there in front of you. We were looking at plant specimens brought back from the Livingstone expedition. Specimens are collected & sent to Kew in an almost identical fashion to the way all those plant hunters did many many years ago; between newspapers in a cardboard folder. The dried specimens are still glued onto paper & stored in the same way.
In parallel to this living botanical history some new-fangled processes & procedures have to be employed too. Now, in order to protect the specimens from pest damage, not being allowed to inject the plant material with poison, they all have to be frozen & the storage of some material is in the recently opened new building at the herbarium, where the temperature can be more strictly maintained.
I think I am really a frustrated botanist. I loved biology at school & was frustrated not to be able to study it at A level. When studying for the RHS General Certificate & Diploma I suddenly found myself enjoying the botany bits enormously. Bit late for a career change!