Cultivating Beauty: Ontario Horticultural Societies from 1906-Present an Exhibit by Royal Botanical Gardens
The Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies, a scholarly centre within Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), hosted an exhibit on March 14th at the Burlington Public Library detailing the history of Ontario Horticultural Societies. I curated the exhibit, Cultivating Beauty: The History of Ontario Horticultural Societies, and delivered an engaging presentation focusing on a history that spanned well over 100 years.
Prior to this, I happily organized a large collection, under the supervision of Erin Aults, Library and Archives Specialist, and David Galbraith, Head of Science, consisting of records from horticultural societies from across the country. With the burgeoning number of environmental histories being written, these documents fit nicely into the larger story showing how these societies altered the Canadian landscape. These documents also add to Canada’s rich social history, showcasing how motivated individuals came together to make positive contributions to their towns and cities, enhancing the social and cultural fabrics of their communities.
My favourite part of researching horticultural societies has been seeing how they have admirably responded to local, regional, national, and international events, planting flowers along the way. Originally, society members beautified towns and cities as a means of fostering good, moral citizens. They also raised their trowels to harvest and reap vegetables throughout two world wars. Many women also filled societies’ ranks participating in increased numbers throughout the century. During my presentation, I provided the audience with an overview of this wonderful history, showcasing the commendable efforts of these societies, who have worked hard to make Ontario beautiful. I felt honoured to read the words of horticultural society members who read those very words during their own speeches throughout the century. They spoke with such beautiful sentiment and I felt proud to share their story.
The exhibit, which can travel, details women’s involvement in societies, First and Second World War food production, rural school beautification, and other great stories.
There is also a focus on the Burlington Horticultural Society showing how its members were a large force behind Burlington’s beautification efforts. Their numerous projects fostered civic improvement and pride that still continues. This group is still active today, working hard to keep Burlington-and Ontario-beautiful.
The presentation was a success with approximately forty people attending the event. After my talk, I was asked by the Burlington Horticultural Society to present at their Annual General Meeting in 2019. A smaller (also travelling) version of the exhibit can be found at the Burlington Public Library for one month. After that, the exhibit will be featured at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
*All label reproductions are courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens
If you would like to learn more about horticultural societies more generally, or the Burlington Horticultural Society more specifically, please check out my presentation.
As many of you know, it takes a lot of people to put together an exhibit. Erin Aults kindly organized the event with Michelle. Christie Brodie, RBG's Interpretation Projects Coordinator, did all of the wonderful graphic design for the exhibit's labels, printed and mounted them, and taught me about the process. RBG staff cut the mounts. Benjamin Peddle, Burlington Library's Service Librarian helped me locate the library's collection on the Burlington society, and then scanned images for use on the labels. Bill Kilburn of the Back to Nature Network and Erin watched me do a presentation run-through, giving me suggestions about how to make my speech better. Pat did a wonderful job of helping us set up the exhibit and to greet visitors at the door. Joyce Vanderwoudes, member of the Burlington Horticultural Society, met with Erin and I to discuss the society's history. A special thank you to W.H. Perron for letting us use one of their early advertisements in the display.
Thank you to everyone that helped me make this event such a success!
*For source information please look at the end notes at the end of my presentation.