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The RHS launches digital library to preserve thousands of rare and historic treasures.

by | 25 Apr 23 | Featured Slider, Nature & Biodiversity, News, Topics

With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has launched a new Digital Collections platform, a curation of over 10,000 library items and herbarium specimens, available for everyone online for free.

The goal of the Digital Collection is to digitally preserve thousands of invaluable resources and historic treasures, without the Digital Collection many of the pieces included would otherwise be inaccessible to the public due to their rarity, fragility and value.

It is the goal of RHS that the Digital Collection be accessible and provide invaluable knowledge to all, from children doing their homework to academic researchers and garden lovers.

Stuart McLeod, director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage fund says: “This platform will provide people from all walks of life with access to this wonderful horticultural heritage and allow them to embrace it in a new way.”

Currently there are 9,542 library items including books, photographs, and artworks. Some of the otherwise inaccessible treasures available through the RHS Digital Collections are:

  • 18th-century English gardener and landscape architect, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s account book, detailing his famous aristocratic and royal clients.
    Brown was regarded as England’s greatest gardener and provided his clients with a full turnkey service.
    It is estimated that Brown redesigned hundreds of parks and gardens throughout Britain and is responsible for developing the natural-looking English landscape style that became renowned throughout the world.
  • An 1876 Benary seed catalogue containing exquisite prints of rare vegetable varieties.
    Benary is a six-generation family-owned business, their first catalogue was published in 1845, issued in English, Russian and German.
    Austrian biologist Gregor Mendel, known for his efforts in establishing the rules of heredity in both animals and plants, is recorded to have used Benary Seeds in his experiments.
  • Humphry Repton’s Red Book for Waresley Park, it is a Georgian ‘lift the flap’ book showcasing before and after garden designs. Repton is often regarded as the successor to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown; he also sowed the seeds of the more intricate and eclectic styles of the 19th-century.

Additionally, thousands of beautiful botanical artworks will be available for viewing and 458 herbarium specimens such as pressed flowers will be digitally preserved.

Fiona Davison, RHS head of libraries and exhibitions says: “The items in our Digital Collections chart the history of gardens and cultivated plants in the UK, highlighting the important role they play in our lives and the benefits they bring to welling, nature and our planet.”

The RHS Lindley Library and Herbarium teams are committed to the continued growth of the platform, with future plans to continue uploading more content to create a larger and richer database for everyone to experience and benefit from.

The library can be accessed for free here.

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