Story and Category: Interpreting Living Collections




Samland, Polly

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University of Guelph


As a structured interface between people and woody plants, arboreta exemplify how abstract systems of organization, such as taxonomy, are translated into physical organization. The rationale behind the classification, arrangement and display of arboreta change over time, and these transformations are documented in records, maps, policies and inventories. This study explores the Salix (willow) collections of three institutions: The Arnold Arboretum, The Dominion Arboretum, and Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Gardens. Written and historical documents in combination with field visits and interviews provide the subject matter for analysis. Connections between innate categories of natural history and narrative theory are explored in a literature review then developed through the interpretation of living collections. These situated and dynamic relationships between plants and people are analyzed and presented in narrative layers. This results in suggestions for how the process of narrative analysis can contribute to rich, meaningful and readable design.



Arboreta, Taxonomy, Natural history, Narrative theory, Dynamic relationships