Kew's unique Latin American Directors' Correspondence collection is available online
Kew's Archive contains scientific correspondence received by Kew's Directors and senior staff from around 1841 to the 1940s. This unique collection is now available via subscription to researchers and academics online.
Kew's Archive contains a wealth of material relating to botanists, their discoveries and their research. One of the largest collections within the archives is the Directors' Correspondence. This collection includes unique scientific correspondence received by Kew's Directors and senior staff from around 1841 to the 1940s.
Eighteen months after embarking on the project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to digitally preserve the Latin American Directors' Correspondence, over 10'000 images from this collection are available to view online via subscription to Aluka and JSTOR, Global Plants Initiative.
Highlights from Kew's collection
Kew's Latin American Directors' Correspondence is a unique resource, containing first hand accounts and observations on botany, ethnobotany, natural history, science, politics and history.
Our collection highlights the important role Kew played in furthering Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century scientific investigation, and the economy of the British Empire.
Hibiscus bancroftii watercolour
Many of the plants referred to were of economic importance, and Kew acted as a hub for their distribution to parts of the British Empire where they could be most efficiently grown and exploited.
Thousands of plant species are discussed in the letters. Sometimes a correspondent included a rough sketch of a plant, and occasionally a beautiful watercolour illustration. Many bird, animal and insect specimens were also shipped backed to Kew for transmission to other Scientific institutions.
Various artefacts manufactured by indigenous populations were also considered of interest. In the 1860s Robert Blake White offered to send Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker an extensive range of native Colombian 'grave goods', including stone axes, pottery and gold figurines.
Support Kew's art and heritage
Over two and a half centuries, Kew’s passion for art and architecture and pursuit of knowledge about plants and the natural world has endowed us with an extraordinary legacy - our unparalleled collection of botanical resources and historical treasures.