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Growing our Collections - Archive accessions at Kew

Find out how Kew's archival collections are growing, what we do with the documents we receive each year and how you can get involved.

Kiri Ross Jones

In this weeks blog post, I thought I’d tell you a little more about how we add to our archival collections here at Kew and highlight a few recent additions.

For those of you that are familiar with how archives work, you will be aware that collections are constantly growing, as new documents and items come in. As well as being a place to store records from the past, new records and other items appropriate for archival collection are also constantly being produced. You never know, that e-mail that you sent the other day might just end up in an archive in the future!


Part of the Monica Cole collection

How items arrive in the archive

Here at Kew there are several ways that items come into our archival collections. We have a records management programme which ensures that once working papers are no longer of current business use, they are transferred into the Archives if they are of historical interest. This process enables us to capture key Kew records for prosperity, including the details of our new buildings, lists of Kew staff and scientific research.

In addition to these official Kew records we also collect papers related to botany in general, such as the papers of eminent botanists. We are fortunate in that the majority of these documents are donated to us either by the botanists themselves, or by their families. Occasionally papers also come up for sale at auction or via rare book sellers. In these cases we sometimes have to raise funds to enable us to bid for them.


Jack Hawkes papers, including photos from the plant collecting expedition to Peru in 1939

A snapshot of our accessions in 2009

In 2009 we accessioned 23 collections into our Kew official papers, 35 new collections into our personal papers, several hundred registered files and hundreds of items of ephemera into our Kewensia collection. The official papers included 155 Kew posters, oral history recordings, maps and postcards. Last year was also a particularly good one for the donation of personal papers. Here's a list of some of the highlights:

  • around 100 collecting notebooks of Professor Jack Hawkes (1915-2007) and images from his plant collecting expeditions to Latin America and the Far East,
  • 25 boxes of papers of Gerald Wickens (1927-) the baobab tree expert,
  • 23 files of Frank Pagnamenta’s (1909-2009) research on the aiton family,
  • 20 new boxes of Monica Cole (1922-1994) papers (to add to the 164 boxes that we already hold),
  • the Cumberlege Thai Orchid Archive (1959-1965),
  • 12 boxes of the papers and books of Reginald Rose-Innes (1915-), the eminent grassland ecologist.

Members of the Archives team will be blogging about some of the more fascinating aspects of these collections shortly.

Help Kew's archive grow

At the end of each year we submit details of our archive accessions to the National Register of Archives. You can browse the NRA website to find out more about our recent acquisitions.

We are always interested to hear from people who might be willing to donate original material such as letters, diaries and collecting notebooks related to botany or the history of the Gardens. If you think that you may have something like this, please do get in touch and help our archives grow!

- Kiri -



Further Information

If you would like to donate something to the Archives, please contact Kiri at