The Archives Collection

A valuable resource on the history of the discovery, study, transfer and use of the world’s plants and fungi.

Letter from Kew's Archive

Our Archives contain the official records of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew).

They also includes the personal papers of many botanists, gardeners and other individuals including Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker and Marianne North. 

There are over seven million sheets of paper in 4,600 archival collections, comprising correspondence, maps, plans, notebooks, records of plants received and sent out from Kew as well as photograph albums.  

How are the Archives used? 

Anyone can use the Archives to carry out research either on anything about Kew (Kewensia) or in the areas of natural history, genealogy and the arts and humanities. 

The Archives are the approved place of deposit for Kew’s official records under Public Records legislation, and records are available for consultation once they are 20 years old. 

It is also a resource on the history of the discovery, study, transfer and use of the world's plants and fungi. A highlight of the collection is Darwin’s letters written from HMS Beagle. 

More sources on the history of Kew 

The standard history of the RBG Kew is Ray Desmond's Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Garden, London: Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2007 (2nd Edition). 

Other significant collections of material relating to the RBG Kew are: 

The National Archives (and its online catalogue) – particularly useful for information relating to large projects, such as the Palm House. It also holds material relating to the early history of Kew, when it became part of the Department of Woods and Forests in 1841. You can find material relating to specific individuals in the National Register of Archives, which is maintained by The National Archives. 

The Royal Archives at Windsor Castle for the period before 1841. 

General references for locating archives 

Two useful printed works for locating archival material are: 

Desmond, Ray (1994). Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists: including Plant Collectors, Flower Painters and Garden Designers. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd and The Natural History Museum. 

Bridson, Gavin D. R. et al (ed) (1980). Natural History Manuscript Resources in the British Isles. London: Mansell; New York: R.R. Bowker Co. 

Discover more

  • Miscellaneous Reports Project

    Cataloguing and conserving the Miscellaneous Reports Collection, a resource that explores Kew's role in the colonial and global networks of economic botany and scientific activity.

    Find out about the project
  • A collage of photos and letters related to Joseph Hooker

    Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project

    Digitising the personal and scientific correspondence of the 19th century botanist and explorer Joseph Hooker.

    Find out about the project