About the Directors' Correspondence Digitisation team
Meet Helen, Ginny, Kat and Charlotte - the team responsible for digitisation of the Directors' Correspondence (DC) archive in the LAA, one of the largest collections within Kew's official Archives.
The Directors' Correspondence, one of the largest collections within Kew's official archive, is a unique resource, containing first hand accounts and observations on botany, ethnobotany, history, natural history, science and politics. The 218 volume collection contains the scientific correspondence received by Kew's Directors and senior staff from the 1840s to 1928, as well as correspondence received by Sir William Jackson Hooker prior to 1841. The collection highlights the important role played by Kew, not only in furthering Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century scientific investigation, but also in contributing to the growth and development of the British Empire.
As the name suggests, the job of the Directors' Correspondence Digitisation Team is to digitally preserve this important collection. The Team is made up of four people: Digitisation Officers: Kat, Ginny and Charlotte, and Team Leader, Helen.
The first task of the team is to catalogue each item within a volume, ensuring that all of the correspondence is logged and accounted for. Next, a volume will be digitally imaged using a scanner or digital camera. Finally, each item is read through, in detail, and a summary of its contents is produced. Digital images and summaries of the correspondence are stored at Kew, but are also available online at the JSTOR Plant Science website. (Download our guide to Searching JSTOR Plant Science) The digitisation project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been successful in increasing access to the collection, making it available to researchers worldwide and, at the same time, reduces significantly the amount of wear and tear on the original documents, ensuring that these will be preserved for future generations.
The correspondence contains letters from botanists, natural historians, chemists, artists, politicians, Lords and Ladies, gardeners, horticulturalists and 'ordinary' members of the public. Therefore, the subjects discussed and the information contained within each letter varies enormously: from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the scientific to the anecdotal. For example, Neville Chamberlain corresponded with Kew while working to establish a sisal plantation on Andros Island in the Bahamas, before he embarked on his political career.
Every month, as we digitise the volumes of correspondence, the team will be blogging about some of the more interesting or entertaining letters they find. Please take a look and let them know what you think.
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