Dr Nielsen’s focus was to explore the curatorial choices behind the signs, guided tours and communication channels at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. During her research, she was delighted to deep dive in to the extraordinary collection of garden literature held by the Huntington, including a limited edition-memoir of the first Head Gardener, William Hertrich.

Vibe also enjoyed the opportunity to explore the rare book collection in the Huntington Library, including herbal and botanical descriptions dating as far back as the 16th century. This offered a unique understanding of the history of plant “discoveries” in the area now known as the Americas.

Conducting ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observations and interviews with curators in the onsite art galleries and gardens, provided Dr Nielsen with a fascinating perspective on how the Huntington is dealing not only with its own institutional past, but also with the concept of the United States as a settler colony. The “Borderlands” exhibition in particular will become central to Vibe’s analysis of the ways in which Indigenous voices are included in the dissemination of plants and their cultural histories. She is in the process of turning her analysis into a journal article which, she hopes in time, will lead to further research and a book investigating how colonial legacies are dealt with in botanical gardens more widely.

Vibe says of her experience during the Leeds Hoban Huntington Exchange Fellowship;

“The curatorial and library staff at the Huntington Botanical Gardens were all very helpful and welcoming in accommodating my research. Being based in the midst of the Botanical Center meant that I had unique access to the ongoing work of the institution behind the scenes, such as how curators of the gardens work on a day-to-day basis and how the collections are cared for and interpreted. During my fieldwork, I participated in a number of guided tours of the gardens and was kindly invited on to the succulent nursery and Japanese Heritage House, as well as the conservatory. Being a Leeds Hoban Linacre Huntington Fellow has been an incredibly rewarding experience that I am most grateful to have had”.