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News: A Must-See Gardening Exhibition Awaits in Washington


August 15, 2017

Laight Garden, Salem, Massachusetts, c. 1920s-30s.  Edward Van Altena, slide maker. (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, The Garden Club of America Collection)

Don’t miss <i>Cultivating America’s Gardens</i>, on exhibit through August 2018 in the Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  The exhibition, a collaboration between Smithsonian Gardens and Smithsonian Libraries, gives visitors a snapshot of the history and culture of the American garden from its earliest beginnings to the present day.  The exhibition draws from the collections of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens (AAG), which was established in 1987 in conjunction with a donation of historic slides by the GCA and is continually augmented by efforts of member clubs to document diverse gardens across the country.

Visitors will see books, trade catalogs, stereographs, lantern slides, illustrations, and color photography that played an important role in the dissemination of horticultural and design knowledge – and in influencing the American garden as it is known today.  The exhibition highlights plant exploration and the establishment of botanical gardens, the rise of the lawn, gardens of the Gilded Age (1870–1900), gardens of World’s Fairs, victory and school gardens, preservation and documentation of historic gardens, the seed industry and plant breeding, and sustainable gardens of today.  

For 25 years, the GCA has collaborated with the Archives of American Gardens (AAG) to preserve the visual record and collective narrative of gardens. The Garden Club of America Collection in the AAG contains more than 37,000 35mm slides, 3,000 glass lantern slides, and a small number of landscape architectural plans and drawings, all of which document the history of American gardens and landscapes. Files were compiled by GCA club members for thousands of gardens in the AAG.

Learn more about the exhibition. 

Read a review of the exhibition by Adrian Higgins in the May 31, 2017, Washington Post.  The review features a lantern slide image from The Garden Club of America Collection, participants in a school garden show hosted by The Summit Garden Club in New Jersey in the early twentieth century.

Listen to a podcast from July 6, 2017, about the exhibition and the AAG from North State Radio, a National Public Radio affiliate, on the program Cultivating Places:  Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden, with host Jennifer Jewell.  In the first half, Jewell interviews Kelly Crawford, one of the exhibition curators and staff member of the AAG; Cindy Brown, manager of Collections and Education at Smithsonian Gardens, is interviewed in the second half.