Royal BC Museum Residency: The Botany Collection

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last week as part of the Royal BC Museum Artist Residency we got to go behind the scenes and explore the Botany Collection. They house over 215,000 specimens, made up primarily of native and introduced plant species found in British Columbia. Most are gathered, pressed, and affixed to cardstock that is marked with collection data for future reference. These pages are stacked in folders, bagged, and stored in lockers. The earliest specimen in Botany was lichen, collected in 1889.

Here’s a sketch I did of some pressed native succulents that collection manager Erica Wheeler was nice enough to pull out for me. Got to use their “official” stamp too – almost looks like the real deal. AVD_crassulaceae_sketchLE

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Museum volunteer Daniela Toriola was helping prepare some new specimen sheets on the day we visited. She carefully arranged the pressed plants, gluing them onto the page with assorted metal weights to hold them down until they dried. Daniela noted that she always tries to make the presentation as beautiful as possible. It is obvious from our visits to the different collections so far that there is a lot of creativity going on behind the scenes. Whether its taxidermy, scientific drawings or how sea creatures are placed in a jar, there’s been care taken to make things visually appealing. These people take pride in their work, knowing that the collections will be looked upon for years to come.
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Drawing in Botany was fun. I got my “spill safe” ink and water sketching set up going, perfect for capturing the transparency of leaves and petals, and the dark curly roots. I used a couple drops of water to wet my brush, and introduced ink with my brush pen (similar to how I was sketching on the road this summer). Here are drawings of a Lilaicaee Zygadenus, and Camassia or “Camas” – a native plant with edible bulbs found in western Canada and the US.
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