The Power of the Internet; Museums and the Web 2011

(written by Aubree Pack)

This month I had the opportunity to attend a conference I’ve had my eye on since last year. Although my first love will always be horticulture, my interests have grown to include understanding how public horticulture institutions can utilize the different opportunities that technology can provide. Exploring how we can use technology in innovative, sustainable, and problem solving ways is a passion of mine.

Museums and the Web, hosted by the Archives and Museum Informatics organization, is designed by and for museum professionals, features the best work from around the world, and highlights the use of new technologies in the museum context. Imagine my excitement when it was being held at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia this year! Over 25 countries were represented and over 600 individuals attended.

(A selected slide from the Plenary Session)

The opening plenary session was a fun start – it was presented by Kristen Purcell of the Pew Internet Research group. She provided an overview of the data they had found for currently trending topics. The overall focus was on how the internet is currently shaping our country. Some of the subtopics included cell phone use across all demographics, teens use of texting and social media (it may surprise you, but teens are using social media less and less – primarily because it’s no longer ‘their’ space. Parents have invaded!), mobile, the changes in how society finds information, etc.

(Another selected slide from the Plenary Session)

A new experience for me was the ‘un-conference’. After my confusion as to what it meant subsided, I was really excited about it.  (thank you Wikipedia! Yes, I use Wikipedia; I openly admit that I’m not afraid of user generated content :)) Okay, so if you don’t know what an un-conference session is, it’s a participant driven session where anyone can suggest a topic and groups are formed around those topics. (I attended Crowdsourcing Plus Tools for Mobile User Generated Content)

(Here is part of the list of topics that came up in the un-conference – it was really hard to choose!)

Other sessions I attended were Social Media and Organization Change, Online Presence and the Act of ‘Just Not Being There‘, Mobile and Geolocation Issues (Getting on, not under, the mobile 2.0 bus), Web Crit Room (existing webpages were evaluated by a panel of professionals), How to Evaluate Online Success, Professional Forum on Re-Thinking Evaluation Metrics, Mini Workshop on Grid Based Web Design, Mobile Crit Room (existing mobile initiatives were evaluated by a panel of professionals), and a few other in conference opportunities. A few of these sessions were direct connections with my thesis research, so it was great to speak with professionals about their similar work. Here’s a teaser about my thesis, should you be interested…

(From the Mobile Crit Room – they put a camera over a smartphone so we could all see the multiple apps)

I would love to talk to anyone about these sessions that is interested; I’m not going to put details abut them here lest this blog post become WAY too long. But I’ve learned so much from this conference; I’m hoping to continue to attend them in the future.

Questions? Comments? Would love to hear them! E-mail me at aubreecherie (at) gmail (dot) com

Spring in Colonial Williamsburg

Last weekend Raakel Toppila, first year Longwood Graduate Fellow and John Moore, second year Professional Gardener Student attended Colonial Williamsburg’s 65th Annual Garden Symposium in Williamsburg, Virginia. John and Raakel were the recipients of the Williamsburg Garden Symposium Student Scholarships generously supported by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a number of conference attendees.

(Duke of Gloucester Street in the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg)

Laura Viancour, Manager of Garden Programs at Colonial Williamsburg, made John and Raakel feel welcome by introducing them to some of the speakers and ensuring that they gained the most from the symposium.


(Lambs – less than a week old!)

The charm and the weather of Williamsburg did not disappoint. The flowering cherries, red bud, dogwood, paw paw, and oaks seemed especially lovely in the 80-degree weather.


(Asimina triloba (paw paw) in bloom)

John and Raakel spent a delightful two-days learning from the “who’s-who” in horticulture including host of Growing a Greener World, Joe Lamp’l, the “perennial diva” Stephanie Cohen, garden author Suzy Bales and director of the Morris Aboretum, Paul Meyer, to name a few. Following morning sessions with the featured speakers, the students were able to spend afternoons with staff of Colonial Williamsburg learning about the plants of 18th century town and how they were used. Highlights from the conference included hearing from the University of Delaware’s Doug Tallamy about Bringing Nature Home through the use of native plants in the home garden to attract insects, birds and other animals. A behind the scenes look at the nursery offered a whirlwind introduction to saving vegetable seeds, the use of plants for dying textiles, the importance of honeybees for pollination, and a rare breeds program for livestock which seeks to preserve genetic diversity in animals.

The symposium offered an outstanding opportunity for John and Raakel to visit the colonial town while learning about the topic they love most.

(Dusk in the Colonial Garden)

 



Are you ready? We are!

Since the save-the-date email was sent out, lots of things for the LGP Reunion has been planned. LGP Reunion 2011: Celebrating 45 Years will be at the Italian Water Garden of Longwood Gardens, which rarely opens to special events. We all are excited!

(The Save-the-Date email)

As the event leader, I appreciate what the Marketing, Guest Relations, and Program Committees have been planning. The Reunion webpage is live, the invitation will go out soon, the menu looks scrumptious, and the day-of activities sound delightful.

There’s one more committee that I would like to thank and that is the Honorary Alumni Committee (HAC):

Eric Tschanz, ‘77, President and Executive Director, Powell Gardens

Nancy Bechtol, ‘84, Director, Office of Facilities Management at Smithsonian Institution

Patrick Larkin, ‘95, Executive Director, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Mark Richardson, ‘04, Adult Programs Manager, Brookside Gardens

Eric Tschanz

Nancy Bechtol

Patrick Larkin

Mark Richardson

These four enthusiastic former Fellows have given us great feedback throughout the planning process. It has been especially helpful to discuss the formation of the LGP Alumni Association with people who are quite supportive of the idea. (Maybe some of them could even be the first officers – no pressure!). You will hear more about the Alumni Association soon, so stay tuned.

Lastly, I would like to recognize the UD Alumni Association for their generous financial support offered through the Satellite Assistance Program.

Close Encounters of the Cacti Kind: APGA Design and Planning Symposium

Last week, Second Year Fellow, Zoe Panchen attended APGA’s Design and Planning Symposium at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ. With the symposium entitled “Collections and Design: Power to the Plants”, plants played centre stage in all the presentations and discussions.

The eye-catching entrance area of Desert Botanical Garden

The pre-conference tour visited Frank Lloyd-Wright’s intriguing winter camp, Taliesin West, where attendees learned about Lloyd Wright’s architectural philosophy, the Arizonan desert plant palate and how these plants influenced his designs: bio-mimicry is not new!

Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) at Taliesin West - the Arizona desert life inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's Architectural design

Public garden staff had teamed up with landscape architects to deliver an inspiring set of presentations on how to “wow” the public in a garden. The first day focused on design principles and the second on using plant designs to educate and raise awareness of topical issues such as conservation and climate change.

The Desert Botanical Garden had stunning displays to inspire desert style gardening. Foreground: Golden Barrel Cacti (Echinocactus grusonii); Background Giant Sagauro (Carnegiea gigantea)

There was also plenty of time during and after the symposium to explore the Desert Botanical Garden’s stunning designed cacti gardens, natural areas and informative ethnobotany trail. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm and the cacti were just starting to bloom. Photo ops abounded!

Mammallaria sp. in flower at Desert Botanical Garden

Post conference, Zoe took the opportunity to visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum established by mining magnet and philanthropist William Boyce Thompson and now run as a state park. The arboretum has stunning cactus gardens, beautiful natural areas and an impressive succulent and cacti collection.


Stunning cacti garden at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The high trail through Boyce Thompson Arboretum's natural area takes the visitor across the Queen Creek on a suspension bridge and along a precipitous trail clinging to the canyon cliff

The Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens of Shimla

January 19 – Shimla
(written by Ashby Leavell, photos by Aubree Pack)

(One of the breathtaking views of Shimla, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas)

Today we quickly prepared for our last garden visit of the trip, to see the Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens located in Shimla, a charming mountain village in the Himalayas.  It seemed fitting to finish our trip in the snow after beginning our India tour in the humid tropics.  We arrived late the night before from Chandigargh, after a flat tire on the road and a long drive from the Nek Chand rock gardens.

(The Viceregal Lodge, located within the Botanic Garden, is now the home of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study)

The Director and lead horticulturalist at the Viceregal Lodge was excited to show us around the stately former summer residence for the British viceroys.  The estate today houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, which awards fifty post-doctoral fellowships in the humanities each year to scholars from around the world.  The Institute is currently seeking advice on how to develop the historic English gardens surrounding the lodge to grow visitation.

(The Himalayas in the distance)

We had the opportunity to consult with the staff at the Institute on how to establish a self-sustaining public garden.  The research fellows and staff were keen to collaborate with our travel group to come up with original ideas for the space.  They have already begun work on an “Eco Walk” around the grounds and are instituting new training regimens for the gardeners.  We were also treated to a tour around historic Shimla and an elaborate luncheon before we had to leave early to catch our train through the Himalayan Mountains back to Chandigargh.

(The train ride out of Shimla has been high on all of our lists. Raakel demonstrates some of our excitement!)

(Our train careening down the side of the mountains, taking us back to Chandigarh)

We were excited to have our own carriage on the train, and enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains the entire way back.   It was truly a lovely end to a once in a lifetime trip.  We have taken in quite a bit of ground in both the U.A.E, Oman, and India, and experienced a dramatic range of gardens and research stations along the way.  Thank you Longwood…

Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

January 18 – Chandigarh
(written by Aubree Pack, photos by Ashby Leavell)

My apologies for blog posts coming through in ‘clunks’. We’ve had extremely limited internet access here in India. And where there is access, it’s been surprisingly expensive. But we’re certainly doing our best to keep you all in the loop!

(The Rock Garden has more than a kilometer of long meandering pathways, full of natural and hand-made wonders)

Arriving in Chandigarh was a crowning achievement! Seriously, we survived TWO back to back overnight trains! We’re rather proud of ourselves. Although the cabin we were in last night was much more comfortable than the night before (watch our video about the night before here), we still had a few problems. Such as squatters in our bunks. But not to worry, our favorite male chaperone, Matt, took care of it! We also arrived at the train station in Chandigarh a bit late. But we were picked up by our good friend Jarnail Singh, whom we all got to know when he was spending time at Longwood Gardens as an international intern.

Jarnail and his friend first took us to a lovely local Indian restaurant. It was excellent! Although some of the group is ready for some good ol’ American cuisine, there are a few of us left that are already sad to not have such amazing Indian dishes at our finger tips when we arrive back in the states.

(A small example of the many sculptures in the Nek Chand Garden)

Then we went to the Rock Garden of Nek Chand. What an amazing place! Nek Chand has an amazing story (see this website to read more about the man himself), but we spent the majority of our time lost in the magic of the Rock Garden he so skillfully created.

In the garden, you’ll find many (MANY) sculptures, all of which are original works of Nek Chand. The majority of the garden is created by waste materials. When we looked closely at the broken pieces used in walls and sculpture, we discovered old plates, toilets, and other recycled ceramic wares. There were also many natural looking forms that he created using concrete and different textures (such as burlap bags). Broken bangles and old broken metal were also elements of his work.

(You see before you one happy gal! I mean, it’s a CAMEL!)

In the garden, there is also an area that is most popular with children (and… Longwood Graduate Fellows). Many of us were able to swing on a huge swing set made completely of recycled materials and concrete. One of us was even lucky enough to score a camel ride 😉

(We were sad to leave Jarnail, but so happy we were able to spend time with him in his home country!!!)

We had only a short time to spend at the gardens of Nek Chand and with Jarnail, but we so enjoyed it! The next time we visit India we will certainly spend more time in this region, as it’s beautifully unique. Then it was off to visit the city of Shimla, in the Himalayan foothills.

(And so begins our ascent into the Himalaya’s!)

The National Botanic Research Institute

January 17 – Lucknow
(written by James Hearsum, photos by Aubree Pack)

(The group in front of the institute with the Director and two department heads)

Video Link: All Aboard!!!! … the Crazy Train. (Before we talk about how awesome the day at The National Botanic Research Institute was, we have to SHOW YOU how awesome it was getting there…)

The National Botanical Research Institute today provided a full schedule of meetings, tours and presentations explaining their research, outreach and facilities.  The day began with a meeting with the Director and Heads of each research department including Biotechnology, Ethnopharmacology, Floriculture, Conservation, Microbiology and much more.  These senior scientists direct a research staff of 100 scientists plus a support staff bringing the total to 500.

(The Cacti House)

The Director expressed a great desire to collaborate internationally by sharing both germplasm and expertise.  The garden has both a history and a current pipeline of new plants, scientific techniques and pure research that it is keen to see enter new markets.  It has had success especially in developing GM cotton, which is now grown on 8.2m of India’s 9.2m Hectares of cotton fields.

(Greeting cards made by staff at NBRI – completely out of natural materials!)

The institute is particularly keen to develop ornamental floriculture products that are appropriate to small-scale farmers with varying levels of education and capital.  It is developing research in tandem with an outreach program to provide a network of agriculturists with basic training, able to train others in turn.

(Irrigation techniques involved planting beds to be lower than the actual surface. The beds are flooded once a day in the summer months and every other day in the winter months.)

(Another view of irrigation, although this shows their Canna germplasm collection.)

The day continued with tours of the garden, including rose gardens, cycad house,  and germplasm collections of Bougainvillea, Cannas and Chrysanthemums.  A new cacti house has been recently landscaped and holds collections for both research and display.  Of great interest to many of us was a fantastic moss collection.  This was housed in its own, ultra-high humidity zone.  None of us envied the horticulturist’s need to weed with tweezers between species of moss, lichen and liverwort!

A presentation of India’s floral diversity highlighted the range and vulnerability of much of India’s flora.  Whilst there are great science institutes working to research both the conservation and application of many of these rare plant species, the task must at times seem overwhelming.

(Some of the Lichen specimens housed in the herbarium)

Following a great lunch provided by the garden (Thanks!) we visited the herbarium and IT departments.  The NBRI houses a national collection developed since the 1950’s extending to 97 000 accessions, including 290 Type collections.  Of particular interest was the Institutes unique database system.  This has been developed in-house over a number of years to provide for the level of comprehensiveness and accessibility not found in other systems used elsewhere.  In use for just over 6 months, this has revolutionised access to important plant data and is available for all via the Institutes website.

The day was exquisitely organised and presented and provided an unparalleled opportunity to see science and conservation in action through a Botanic Garden.

(The Director presents each of us with an array of exciting take away gifts!)

The Taj Mahal and Ram Bagh

January 16 – Agra
(written by Felicia Yu, photos by James Hearsum)

(We make the Taj Mahal look good…)

No trip to India would be complete with a visit to the Taj Mahal. And what would a visit to the Taj Mahal be without the experience of waking up before the crack of dawn for a chance of seeing the sun rise over those famous white minarets?

Video LinkThe Taj!!!

Luckily we were all able to get ourselves up at 5am in order to get there in time. Unluckily, none of us thought to check what time the sun actually rose, so we ended up being more than an hour earlier than necessary. And then there was the small matter of the fog and clouds not lifting until the afternoon…

(The Gardens)

Regardless, we can all now assure anyone that the Taj Mahal is not overrated, sunny weather or no. It deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, if not the most beautiful.

As you approach, the surrounding red sandstone buildings keep the Taj out of sight until the last possible moment, and then bam! There it is. The Taj Mahal. Majestic even on a misty morning, even with a healthy population of tourists wandering around, backed by nothing except the sky because of its high placement above the banks of the Yamuna River.

(James found an Indian ‘friend’ who took a few photos of him. Here’s one of the ‘gems’!)

Before approaching the mausoleum itself, all visitors must remove their shoes or else wear the bright red shoe covers provided by the tourism office, to protect the white marble plaza and floors of the mausoleum where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are entombed.  Up close, the white marble is actually swirling with naturally occurring blues, oranges, pinks, and grays. The borders of every doorway and wall panel are either carved ornately or inlaid with semiprecious stones in varying floral patterns. Symmetry rules in every direction, down to the surrounding buildings.

(Ram Bagh Garden: a view from the top terrace)

Our second visit of the day was to the Ram Bagh, India’s oldest Mughal garden, built by the Emperor Babur in 1528. The garden is among the oldest formally designed landscapes in the world. We spent some time wandering up and down the straight pathways, regretting that the channels which would normally carry a cascade of water down from the top terrace to the lower level of the garden were dry, while the water pump system was being repaired. A couple of the garden’s caretakers were able to show us around and explain some of the history and background of the place. The garden is currently being restored, with new plantings already in place throughout the symmetrically placed lawns.

Lodi Garden and the gardens of the President of India

January 15 – Delhi
(written by Raakel Toppila, photos by Felicia Yu)

(A view of one of the tombs)

This morning we escaped the crowded streets of Delhi to enjoy the peaceful Lodi Gardens nestled in the heart of the city. Meandering paths lead us through the garden as Delhiites whisked by during their morning exercise routine.

(Another Tomb)

Two impressive tombs and other architectural marvels dating to the Sayyid and Lodi Dynasties of the 15th and 16th Century are found throughout the garden. The earliest tomb dating to 1444 is that of Mohammed Shah, the last Sayyid Dynasty ruler. A second tomb houses Sikander Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi from 1489 to 1517.

(We gained an extra group member the entire time we were at Lodi Gardens. We couldn’t shake him! Meet ‘Big Red’)

(Some plantings at Lodi.)

We shared a chance encounter with horticulture staff who were preparing for the day. The gardeners informed us that ninety staff maintain the 90 acre garden. Carefully planted display beds featuring primarily foliage plants are located throughout the garden. Towering trees undoubtedly make this garden a popular destination during hotter weather.

(Interacting with the gardeners of Lodi. We gave them a deck of Longwood playing cards; even though we didn’t speak the same language, we understood their Ooo-s and Ahh-s!!!)

We departed from Lodi Garden’s bound for the President’s residence, unsure if we would be able to pass through the high security gates. A few detours, a couple phone calls, and some smooth talking, we were in! Shri. Nigam Semwal, Special Officer on Duty (Horticulture) greeted us beyond the gates and toured us through the President of India’s Mughal Garden.

(Photos of the President’s Palace and Gardens were strictly prohibited. Don’t ask us how we got this one… ;))

The garden was designed by Edwin Lutyen, prominent 20th Century British Architect credited with designing much of New Delhi.  It is modelled after gardens created during the Mughal reign, which occupied a large part of the subcontinent from 1526 to 1858. The symmetrical walled garden is pierced by channels of flowing water. Three large terraced garden rooms descend from the President’s House: the main garden, the terrace garden and the circular sunken garden. Beyond the Mughal Garden, we visited the Spiritual Garden, which highlights plants of religious importance.  Next, we toured the Musical Garden, featuring a large fountain with water that dances to traditional Indian music.  Finally we viewed the Herbal Garden, which includes plants of medicinal importance.

Our group felt honored to have such an exclusive tour of the Presidential garden which is normally open to the public for only the month of February.

New Delhi ‘Rest’ Day

January 14 – New Delhi
(written by Ashby Leavell, video by Raakel Toppila, photos by Aubree Pack)

(A common view from our travel van…)

(We’re still on the fence as to whether they are crazy-efficient here, or just plain crazy…)

Our crew was ready for the break day in New Delhi to relax, explore, and… go shopping.  A group left midmorning to look through the government emporium shops nearby, featuring shops from each region of India.  Vendors hawked colorful silk scarves and metal trinkets galore.  We tried our hand at bargaining, wandered in and out of most of the shops, and left happy.

(Matt discovers that he is ‘wanted’ in India…)

Our food expert, Longwood gardener Pandora Young, guided us to Old Delhi for lunch.  Bustling does not begin to describe the street we navigated on the way there.  Keep in mind that roughly 20 million people are estimated to live in Delhi.  The blare of car horns and shopkeepers shouting filled the air and mingled with the aromas of street food along the way.

Video Link: A street walking experience in Delhi

(Part of the group waits for a gap in the traffic so they can cross the road)

(He is making jalebis, a treat that some of the group have been able to try while eating at local restaurants)

After lunch we visited the massive Red Fort, a Mughal construction from the 17th century.  Its red sandstone walls are surrounded by a deep moat and extend for 2km in the old section of the city.  We stopped at the iconic India Gate for photographs before heading back for the evening.

(The Red Fort – a stunningly large complex!)

(India Gate – it’s a lot bigger than it looks! A picture simply can’t capture its grandeur…)

(at least SOMEONE was resting today… :D)