Curator of Cultivated Plants
I’ve been captivated by plants since my first gardening plot at Heatherdown School in the late 1970’s and my later gardening ‘punishment’ at Charterhouse School in the 80’s. Over the years I have moved from living to preserved collections and on to archives and literature but still keep my feet in all these camps. I have worked in commercial horticulture and the nursery trade for over 15 years and moved into collections administration/management 20 years ago after pursuing a more botany-focused direction at university. At the Herbaria I became fascinated with our associated libraries and archives and since leaving in 2017 manage the physical archive of one of the worlds largest on-line archival resources, the Internet Archive
Inside the Great Room at the headquarters of the Internet Archive in San Francisco where I am Associate Director of the Physical Archive.
I manage over 80,000 sq. ft. of archives and ship hundreds of thousands of books, films and music to super scanning centers around the world. As well as the physical archive, my colleagues work on archiving the internet and digitizing media such as film, sound, computer software, computer games as well as taking the lead in global initiatives such as the decentralized web, Open Library and providing Universal Access to All Knowledge.
One of my landscape projects as a freelance landscaper was the construction of this terraced garden in Godalming using local bargate stone. The problem with this project was access to remove 25 six tonne skips of spoil by buckets and wheel barrows down many flights of stairs to create the terraces. All top soil was reused and a further 50 tonnes went up hill to level the lawn. This garden has many themes but had to be sensitive to native, semi ancient woodland above and becomes less formal the further you head up the hillside, culminating in a woodland garden.
I came to UC Berkeley from the University of Connecticut, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology where I was the Scientific Collections Manager at the George Safford Torrey Herbarium, but also became the Curator of the Campus Arboretum. At UConn I moved and rearranged the herbarium and introduced a new phase of specimen digitization, which included type specimens, links to protologues, collector information, loans and high resolution images. I still maintain close links with UConn and facilitated the CONN herbarium to utilize BerkeleyMapper to map georeferenced specimens. Prior to UConn I worked at Denver Botanic Gardens as Horticultural Taxonomist and Plant Records Manager and before moving to the United States I enjoyed brief spells at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Department of Botany at Wisley and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on various database projects.
While I was at the Herbaria I saw a number of opportunities to expand and fund our digitization and curatorial activities beyond California. Starting with our type specimen project shortly after my arrival, the herbaria now has digitized around 19,000 types linked to protologues at the JStor Plant Science website. Seaweeds, given 3 generations of phycological expertise, were the next obvious choice and we now have over 160,000 specimens digitized.
I was introduced to the archives at Berkeley that not only pertain to botany but also transcend it in many areas. This led me to pursue funding for documenting these unique and hidden resources. Assisted by the wealth of institutional knowledge that existed here, our successful application led to the creation of our on-line archives catalog, the creation of an archivist/librarian position, and a new era for the use of our archives in conjunction with our specimens. The Institute of Museum and Library Services funded compactor shelving for two of our libraries and associated archives, the Jepson Library and the Silva Center for Phycological Documentation which provided much needed space for our collections.
Collecting on Brooks Island as part of a Bay Area Island Flora to collect plants from locally under collected localities in the bay area, particularly Islands like Alcatraz but also Brooks Island, and East Marin Island.
Running with the theme of collections that have not received support in many years, on the specimen front I am thrilled to learn that we continue to move into our cryptogammic collections with grants funded during my tenure for seaweeds, lichens, bryophytes, and fungi, followed recently by ferns and rare plants for imaging and digitization. These grants led to us to readdress our workflows and procedures, some of which have been in place for many years. It also made necessary the complete redesign of our database, something I am still involved with. Working with our CollectionSpace partners and Berkeley Information Services and Technology we used the above projects to test and develop the new system for the replacement of our old database.
The collections continue to grow and I have overseen the acquisition and integration of a number of collections over the last decade. This started with the Los Angeles County Museum cryptogams, swiftly followed by the historic Charterhouse School Herbarium (GOD) in addition to numerous private donations.
Holding one of the folios from the Charterhouse School Herbarium. The collections date from the 1790’s up to the first world war and contain vouchers from the UK, South Africa, and western North America. Behind me is a painting of Old Carthusian, Lord Baden-Powell who founded the scouting movement and was one of the first Charterhouse Museum committee members.
Giving a herbarium tour to participants of the 2011 Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). I gave numerous tours every year to diverse groups from landscape architects to Berkeley students.
The administrative activities of my position restricted my research interests to a limited amount of time and traditionally this has been in the taxonomy/documentation of cultivated plants but has moved into bay area island flora and the history of natural history. In my new archival/library career with the Internet Archive I anticipate more weekend field botany. I have also rejoined the board of the California Botanical Society where I served for many years as 1st Vice President.
What I liked most about working for the University & Jepson Herbaria is promoting the collections to a diverse range of users, from systematists to civil war researchers. We could never have predicted 100 years ago that specimens are now being used for molecular and climate change studies and that we can use collections to go back in time. My goals at Berkeley were to integrate these collections as much as possible internally within the Berkeley Natural History Museums and externally for wider exposure of the herbaria to a broad range of people.
I am still curating the cultivated plants at the Herbaria and vouchers from the botanical garden. I welcome queries and assistance with projects such as The Blake Garden, cultivated plants from the Berkeley campus and Botanical Garden and numerous other fascinating gardens. My new job the Internet Archive is not so dissimilar from running a natural history museum and there are many parallels in addition to many thousands of botanical books, field books, and ephemera digitized through partners and through our own digitization super centers. The Herbaria offered me unique training to move into my role at the Internet Archive and I look forward to future collaborations.