Grant to help Winterthur map 14,000 plants

Most gardeners know that keeping track of dozens of plants can be a chore: Imagine having 14,000.

Fortunately for Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, it has received a $148,262 grant to assist with that daunting task, which began in 2014. The Museums for America program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded Winterthur a Collections Stewardship grant to map the award-winning Winterthur Garden digitally and scan historic estate maps, a Winterthur press release said.

The two-year grant will enable Winterthur to complete work begun in 2014 to map and inventory the 14,000 woody plants in the garden, update records, geo-reference key historic maps, and make the current and historic living collection available online.

“This project will create a powerful tool to manage and preserve the design intent of Henry Francis du Pont, who established one of the finest and most complex naturalistic gardens in the United States,” Chris Strand, Brown Harrington Director of Garden and Estate at Winterthur, said in the release. “Garden staff will have the ability to overlay historic garden maps on current conditions and make precise determinations on any needed adjustments.”

Winterthur was one of 217 recipients selected from 583 applications receiving $25,996,400 nationally. Institutions receiving the awards are contributing $33,841,194 in non-federal matching funds, and Winterthur is providing $190,487, the release said.

“Winterthur is deeply committed to the responsible stewardship of our collections and honored to have received this IMLS funding, which was awarded through the highly competitive Museums for America program,” said Winterthur Director Dr. David P. Roselle in the release. “This IMLS grant will allow for simultaneous updates to plant records and maps to ensure a high level of accuracy in collections management and will lay a strong foundation for future management, initiatives, education, and research.”

The Winterthur Garden was last surveyed beginning in the 1990s. By 2005, 80 percent of the plants were inventoried. Since then, approximately 2,500 shrubs and trees have been added or replaced. Approximately 20 percent of the garden has not been mapped since the 1960s.

In January 2014, Winterthur received a grant of $15,000 from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust to begin converting paper and digital maps into a geographic information system (GIS) framework. Winterthur Director of Horticulture and Curator of Plants Linda Eirhart oversaw Winterthur’s initial mapping efforts and will supervise the IMLS grant project.

Eirhart noted that plant identification and inventorying as well as historic map digitization would begin in late October and continue through spring of 2017.

“At the click of a mouse, this project will immediately benefit the Winterthur Garden department staff by enabling us to preserve the landscape as H.F. du Pont originally intended and to more accurately and effectively restore spaces that have changed from the original vision,” Eirhart said. “The project also will benefit researchers and the public who will have access to the updated plant records through the Winterthur website.”

Winterthur will hire a full-time GIS mapping specialist and plant records intern to assist with the project, the release said.

“IMLS helps museums provide opportunities for visitors to experience science, history, art, technology and living collections in unique and interactive ways,” said IMLS Acting Director Maura Marx in the release. “With this federal support, museums all over the country will be better equipped to care for their collections, create exhibitions and learning experiences for visitors, and contribute to a better quality of life for their communities.”




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