The Archive collection forms a valuable and unique resource on the history of the discovery, study, transfer and use of the world's plants and fungi. There are over seven million sheets of paper in 4,600 archival collections, comprising correspondence, notebooks and photograph albums, records of plants received at Kew and sent out from Kew, and maps and plans tracing the development of the Gardens.
The Archive is over 160 years old and exists to preserve, protect and promote the historical records created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as well as the papers of many botanists, gardeners and other individuals. The Archive is the approved place of deposit for the organisation’s official records under Public Records legislation, and records are available for consultation once they are 20 years old.
As well as protecting and providing access to Kew’s official records, the Archive is also home to the personal papers of many notable figures such as Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker and Marianne North. A highlight of the collection is Darwin’s letters written from HMS Beagle. A vast range of material is found within the Archive, including manuscripts, maps and plans, photographs, plant collector notebooks and other unique items.
Every year hundreds of people from all over the world use the Archive to carry out research in the areas of natural history, genealogy and the arts and humanities. The materials are also used by staff at Kew to facilitate their work in various areas, ranging from scientific research to promotional activities. Everyone is welcome to visit the Library, Art & Archives Reading Room to explore the materials and to discover Kew’s rich and diverse history.