Formosa and Mycology... Cataloguing Kew's Archives
By: Stephanie Rolt - 16/05/2012
Read about the papers of William Price and Arthur Pearson that have recently been catalogued by our Archives Graduate Trainee, Steph.
As part of my traineeship in the archives here at Kew, I have been learning how to catalogue the archive’s collections to internationally recognised standards. Cataloguing collections makes them more accessible to users, because we have a detailed record of what each collection contains. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get to know some of Kew’s collections better, which allows me to provide a more informed service for readers. Recently I have catalogued the papers of two botanists – William Price and Arthur Pearson. Read on to find out more about these two individuals, and about some of the challenges I faced when cataloguing their papers.
William Price papers
William Robert Price (1886-1975) studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge. He went on to work in the Herbarium at Kew. Here he met Henry John Elwes, and the two of them travelled to Formosa (now Taiwan) in 1912 to collect plant specimens for the Herbarium.
Price's photo of Kew's Herbarium (archive ref: PRI/2/2)
Price’s papers consist of a diary and collecting lists relating to his Formosa trip, and two autobiographical works about his life and career. These autobiographies contain pictures of the Herbarium at Kew as it was in Price’s day, as well as photographs of the places he visited on his travels. Price really was an excellent and amusing story teller, and his works are a joy to read. I particularly enjoyed his anecdotes about his work in the Herbarium and the individuals he worked with. The story of how Price came to work in the Herbarium at Kew is told with particular humour:
'I presented myself one day in November 1909 at Mr. Hill’s (then the Assistant Director of Kew) office, with an urgent request to him : “Can I be an Assistant at the Herbarium?”. His answer was: “No”, and I went home very cross. But I persisted and returned with the same request and received the same answer, returning home crosser! However, either because Mr. Hill couldn’t think of any other way of getting rid of me, or because he was a kind man... I received soon after a charming letter... offering me the job of Temporary Assistant at £1 a week.'
Arthur Pearson papers
One of Pearson's notebooks listing the fungal forays of the British Mycological Society (PEA/2/1)
Arthur Anselm Pearson (1874-1954) was an amateur, but highly respected, mycologist (someone who studies fungi) who was actively involved with the British Mycological Society and attended many of their forays (trips to collect and record fungi). The British Mycological Society still exists today, and I found their website very useful whilst cataloguing Pearson’s papers. It helped me to learn more about mycology (a topic I was previously unfamiliar with!) and the society that was such an important part of Pearson’s life. I also talked to mycologist colleagues at Kew to help me understand the content of Pearson’s correspondence and mycological notes. Hopefully these papers will prove useful to anybody interested in the history of fungal recording and the British Mycological Society.
Can you help? A bit of a mystery...
Whilst I was looking through Pearson’s papers I noticed that some of the correspondence was not in fact Pearson’s at all, but comprised letters from various individuals to a man named W. D. Buckley. The content of the letters indicated that Buckley, like Pearson, was a mycologist. Very little is known about W. D. Buckley here at Kew, so if anybody out there has any information at all about his life or career, we would love to hear from you!
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About the Tropical Nursery
The main functions of the Nursery are to:
- Form a back-up collection of tender tropical plants used to support science, display and education within the gardens. We supply plants for use in displays in the Main Kew conservatries, for festivals and events organised by the Foundation and the Directorate.
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