Armchair archivists 19th century letters

Help us transcribe the letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, the trailblazing botanist.

Letters written by Joseph Hooker

This activity would suit volunteers with an interest in history and the ability to read 19th century handwriting. It involves transcribing the letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, this can be done from remotely from home 

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817–1911) was a trailblazing botanist and explorer and Kew’s second director. He undertook many botanical expeditions, detailing plant diversity and economic botany, he remains an influential figure to modern botanical science.  During his career he was also a prolific correspondent, writing to family, friends and colleagues, including Charles Darwin.  

Our Joseph Hooker Correspondence project, based in the Archives at Kew, works to make his letters available online, through the digitisation and transcription of Hooker's correspondence. The formation of this online repository, comprised largely of previously unpublished archive material, will facilitate academic research in such fields as botany and other natural sciences, horticulture, British imperialism, garden history, the history of science and the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We also hope to bring knowledge of Joseph Hooker to a wider audience and to extend awareness of the extent and significance of his work. 

Volunteers working on this project have developed: skills in palaeography, learnt about the leading 19th century scientists of the day and gained experience prior to embarking on a career in archives.  

To join our team of remote volunteers, who contribute to the project by transcribing Joseph Hooker’s letters for us using our project protocol, get in touch archives@kew.org and we will email you an example to try.

View the letters here.

More about Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker

  • A collage of photos and letters related to Joseph Hooker

    Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project

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

    Read about the project
  • Hooker's career and legacy

    Hooker began his career as an Assistant Surgeon in the Navy on HMS Erebus for the Ross expeditions.

    Read more about Hooker's career