Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


The Library has so many plans in train or planned that the workload for library staff has been likened to the circus act of keeping many plates spinning on poles.

Some of our recent achievements

  • The Foundation has raised $49,000 so far for the Rare Book Cataloguing Project. This exciting project, in the hands of cataloguer Janet Heywood, is gradually revealing the origins of our book collection and many of the stories contained within it. More rare books in the Library's main collection are being identified. One side benefit of this project was the re-discovery of an 1895 notebook handwritten by James Jones, cataloguing plants growing in the Gardens and their location in a plan of numbered garden beds - the earliest known record. The current focus is on books that came from the collections of 19th century director J.H. Maiden and colonial surgeon and naturalist George Bennett.
  • Donor Alistair Hay donated considerable funds for the conservation and binding of heritage materials.
  • Donors Sue and Rob Maple-Brown donated funds, through the Friends of the Gardens, to purchase the 2 volume Highgrove Florilegium.
  • Artist and member of the Florilegium Society committee, Deirdre Bean, funded the construction of a special display case for the Highgrove and similar large folio works. The stunning display case, designed and constructed by Garden's carpenter Marc Dieckmann, was based on a 19th century display case in the State Library of New South Wales.
  • A second exhibition of the Florilegium Society of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney was held in the Red Box Gallery in 2010, with 24 artworks displayed. These beautiful works have been donated to the Trust by the artists. 
  • The working archives have been assessed and weeded significantly creating more room for the rare book collection, which continues to grow. Sorting the archives yielded a list of books that came to the Library from former director J.H. Maiden's personal collection and a number of original Reverend Rupp orchid drawings. Many more treasures will remain buried until there is time to properly tackle this collection. 
  • A dedicated dehumidifier and an air-conditioner have been installed adjacent to the Rare Book Annexe. This means this invaluable collection of books, artworks and illustrations, manuscripts and archives is no longer subject to the excesses of Sydney's hot humid summers and the resultant mould problems.
  • The Oral History Collection is progressing, at last count 60 interviews, nearly all conducted by volunteer John Pearce. We now have interviews with the previous 5 Directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust as well as a whole range of staff, former staff, volunteers and Friends.
  • The glass slide collection has been digitally scanned giving us access to some wonderful early scenes of the Gardens.
  • A new digital microfiche funded by Dorothy & Alex Robinson via the Friends gives us instant networkable access to many thousands of overseas herbaria images. The Robinsons also funded the purchase of J.H. Maiden's unpublished manuscript, his Centennial history of the Garden. This has been digitised with hard copy available in the Library, later to be made available online.
  • A multimedia workstation provides A3 flatbed and slide scanners so precious resources no longer need to leave the library.
  • The installation of a replacement 30 range compactus in late 2007, funded so generously by the Friends of the Botanic Gardens, has provided the Library with an extra 10-15 years of growth space. It was a mammoth task involving 1500 cartons of journals and the movementof 15 or so tonnes of steel in an out of the Library. Every journal and book in the Library has now been moved.
  • Recent years have seen the refurbishment of the back corner which now houses the Quarto and new Folio collections and two new work areas with fabulous views (the Bill & Sally Nelson Corner).
  • Additional shelving in the rare book Annexe now houses the botanical illustration collection, the manuscript collection, rolled maps and framed and mounted images.
  • The exhibition Panoramas, Plants & People displayed the history of the Garden using images and objects from the Library's collections and the Maiden museum collection.
  • The annexation of a cleaners’ cupboard and an unused corridor provided secure storage for the historic photograph and image collections and shelving for the microfiche collection and backlog materials.
  • UV filters and blinds now protect the collection from the sun and new seating throughout provides ergonomic comfort.
  • And, of course, our team of volunteers have achieved what seemed unimaginable just a few years ago - the sorting, rehousing and documenting of heritage collections and many other projecst - see Library volunteers for an account of the many great projects undertaken by Library volunteers.

Future Projects


1.  The completion of the journal stocktake to create the first full and accurate listing of the Library’s serials
2.  The creation of a separate collection of publications by and about the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, and the Domain, including unpublished works.
3.  The continuing sorting, rehousing and documenting of collections:

  • historic photos
  • glass slides (containing many precious images of the Garden)
  • mounted photographs
  • artworks and illustrations
  • historic slides
  • plant slides (to merge into the existing collection)
  • maps & plans
  • realia (historic objects)
  • framed & mounted images
  • working archives

3.  Scanning images and documents for access to and preservation of collection items
4.  Continuing the covering of fragile leather bound volumes with acid-free plastic
5.  Adding location records to species lists and preparing for cataloguing online 

Funding Needed

  1. Establishing a project to scan historical works to be made available online through the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), including funds for hardware, software and labour.
  2. Continuing the Rare Book Cataloguing Project
  3. Digitising the card catalogue, which has 134 years of the Library’s collections and journal indexing buried in it.
  4. Continuing the digitising of artworks, botanical illustrations, photographs, glass slides, plant slides, realia and selected maps & plans
  5. Continuing the restoration of at-risk Library collection items
  6. Refurbishment of the rest of the Library - relocating and upgrading the library office, revamping and up-dating the main user and display area, moving book shelves away from north facing windows and increasing shelving space, building specialist secure storage collections and a secure unit to display our rare & valuable collection items.
  7. Digitising unpublished reports and selected manuscripts.

The fabulous new compactus donated by the Friends of The Gardens 

Panoramas Plants & Peoples exhibition displaying the history of the Gardens in pictures & objects

Another corner of the exhibition displaying treasures from the Library's collections

Back Corner 4
Seating area and desk space overlooking the Cunningham garden

Back corner 1
Study desk and volunteer work area overlooking the Solander Lawn