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Friday, October 11, 2019

Celebrating American Archives Month at the Archives of American Gardens

What does the Archives of American Gardens do? We’re glad you asked! Although October is traditionally American Archives Month, the Archives of American Gardens (AAG) celebrated a bit early by hosting an open house event this past summer. Smithsonian Gardens staff as well as interns from across the Smithsonian were invited to view some highlights from the Archives and ask questions about what exactly AAG staff do. Upon arriving at the open house, visitors were greeted by a life-sized carrot-man hybrid, replicated from a nineteenth century trade card advertisement previously featured in the 2017-2018 “Cultivating America’s Gardens” exhibition at the National Museum of American History. Curated by museum specialists Kelly Crawford and Joyce Connolly, the exhibit featured many items from the AAG collections.

Trade card, C. Ribsam & Sons, Trenton, New Jersey, 1880s. 
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Home to over 40 collections and over 150,000 photographs, AAG collects, preserves, and provides access to unique resources that document historical and contemporary American gardens and landscapes. At the open house, various examples of AAG’s materials were on display—including correspondence and seed packets from the W. Atlee Burpee & Company records.

Sample of collection holdings at the Archives of American Gardens open house, July 2019. 
Haley Steinhilber, photographer. 
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was cool to see all of the stuff laid out—like the photograph signed by Jacqueline Kennedy,” said SG summer intern Abby Kruthoffer. The former First Lady gifted the picture to landscape architect Perry Wheeler following his help with the design of the White House rose garden. The photograph was donated to AAG along with Wheeler’s papers in the 1990s. Museum specialist Joyce Connolly was on hand to answer questions about the objects as well as current AAG projects. Since AAG is a relatively small program within Smithsonian Gardens, she was happy for the opportunity to share more about the role that the Archives play within the organization.

Photograph of The White House Rose Garden, signed by Jacqueline Kennedy.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Perry Wheeler Collection

Don’t fret if you missed the opportunity to visit—you can virtually ‘tour’ thousands of  AAG images online through the Smithsonian Collections Search Center. Interested in getting involved? Share your own garden story at Community of Gardens, discover “mystery gardens” in the AAG collections, or help make collections more accessible through the Smithsonian Transcription Center. AAG is a resource for those interested in American horticultural and landscape heritage—meaning anyone can use or contribute to documenting this history, including you!

Haley Steinhilber
Archives of American Gardens Intern
Recipient of The Garden Club of America Scholarship in Garden History and Design for 2019

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