As we embark on our new project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), ‘Plant Recording for All Ages,’ we thought we’d just reflect on everything we’ve achieved in our last HLF-funded project: ‘Living History: Sharing our botanical historical heritage’.
Over the last 2 years we’ve done a fantastic amount with the £100,000 we were given, both to our building and with our events.
First of all, we decorated our old lecture room. It now proudly displays a unique botanical wallpaper designed by a local artist, Augusta Akerman, based on her drawings of plants in the SLBI garden and herbarium. The style of the art pays homage to William Morris, so reflects the period of the building, and is in a paisley-inspired design, reflecting the time spent in India by Allan Octavian Hume, the SLBI’s founder. Around 15 plants from the garden and herbarium are included, including Gingko biloba, the tree standing tall in front of the Institute and seen in our logo. The newly decorated room has also got energy-efficient lighting and a beautiful chandelier from eBay!
The new lecture room with its botanical wallpaper; Jennifer Ullman (HLF) with Roy Vickery (SLBI President) and Augusta Akerman (artist)
We also developed this lovely new website, which shows the wallpaper too. If you remember the old website, we hope you’ll agree that this one if much easier to use, and you can now pay for your events and membership online, which has proved very popular. You can also sign up to our monthly e-newsletter – the best way to keep up with our latest news and events.
Whilst doing up the lecture room, we also got 27 of our windows and shutters conserved and draught-proofed – so now our events in winter feel a lot less chilly and we’re also saving on our energy bills. We also got a new energy-efficient freezer for rotating our herbarium specimens (to stop the bugs eating them!).
Trying out the new website in the herbarium and enjoying the library – both with lovely newly painted green shutters
A lot of our ‘Living History’ project was about education. We had 51 school visits during the 2 years, with the children loving discovering our secret garden with its pond and frogs – as well as using microscopes and doing art activities inside the house.
We also put on plant-related art & craft activities during each school holiday, making things like botanical birds’ nests and mini-gardens to take home.
However, the education wasn’t just for children, but for people of all ages. We’ve had several thousand people come through our doors in each of the past 2 years, attending a wide range of workshops, courses, talks, films and open garden days. The events weren’t just for ‘botanists’ – far from it – we’ve had workshops ranging from aromatherapy and perfumery through to willow basket and terrarium making, and talks ranging from seaweed to climate change. We also held lots of activities such as tree walks off site.
Aromatherapy, Botanical Bake Off, Willow Basket Making and Terrariums
After the successful 2 years it was only fitting that we hold an end-of-project event, and our ‘Victorian Variety’ day was attended by over 100 people from the local community, enjoying meeting a range of Victorian characters and a variety of activities, cakes and pies!
Of course none of our activities would have been possible without the staff and volunteers who have run them, and these were also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – we’re very grateful for everything that they’ve enabled us to do.
Only one part of project is still to be competed – getting our library catalogue online! But we’re nearly there with that, so look out for it soon – in the meantime do please contact us if you’d like to know what’s in our library.
So that’s the last HLF project – now to the new one! Look out for future blogs on that and keep an eye on our events page – we’ve already got a lot planned for this summer.