Read about Kew’s latest publication, which draws on our Library, Art & Archives collections
Visitors enjoying the sunshine outside the Orangery, which was a wood museum at this time
Over the last year, Lynn Parker, our Assistant Illustrations Curator, and I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work on a book showcasing over 250 rare and remarkable black and white photographs from across our collections. Having spent some time searching through boxes in our stores, we found a number of photos, each revealing their own story – images of a man with a penguin in the Gardens, land girls in clogs and women harvesting beetles from cacti in Antigua. Never before has the history of Kew been told through its photographic collections and so it was decided that this would provide a good opportunity for a publication, as well as a chance to promote parts of our collections never previously seen.
Woman spinning cotton in India
The story begins in the 1840s, with our earliest photographs (daguerreotypes), which are of the Palm House being built. We look at the building projects under the Hookers and how they formed Kew, Victorian Kew’s imperial inks, drawing on images of plant products and other botanic gardens around the world and life in the field for plant hunters. We then return back to Kew, to explore behind the scenes and the untold stories of staff, our long history of welcoming visitors and the visitor attractions around the Gardens, wartime Kew and finally the emergence of the Kew we know today, in the period 1940s-1970s. Images of giant plants and seeds, Edwardian visitors enjoying the scenery, unknown corners of the Gardens and key personalities can all be found in the book.
Staff working in the Tropical Pits
Through working on the project, Lynn and I found that we learned a great deal about the history of Kew, as well as discovering previously unknown images. If you appear in the images yourself or can provide us with any further information, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Without the generosity and photographic skills of many of our previous members of staff and visitors, this book would not have been possible. If you have any images of the Gardens that you are happy to share with us, particularly images from pre-1970, you can upload your photos to our Flickr group, or email them to email@example.com.
Win postcards of historic images
To celebrate the publication, postcards are being given away daily via our twitter feed – All you need to do is follow us @KewDC and retweet.
Buy a copy of the book
The Story of Kew Gardens In Photographs can be purchased for £15 from Kew’s online shop
- Kew Publishing
- Arcturus Publishing (our joint publishers)
- Kew's Image Library
- Read a press release about the book
Kew's Library, Art and Archives contains many millions of items within its collections. Find out about the diverse teams who look after these collections and make them accessible.
- Archives team
- Directors' Correspondence Digitisation team
- Exhibitions & Galleries team
- Library Information Services team
- Preservation team
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