Friday, July 1, 2011

The Green Life

Every now and then, out of vanity, curiosity, or fear (I'm not sure which), I Google myself to find out if anyone is using my name in vain.

Usually what comes up are posts from the Farm or here--as well as the ubiquitous "rate your professor" sites (my hotness factor is, alas, still zero). Once in a while, however, somebody will quote me and refer to one of the posts. I'm usually happy for the exposure, and occasionally join the conversation. It's rare, however, that I happen upon something truly wonderful.

I pinched the above image from an internal visual journal, Vita Viridis (Green Life), published by some clearly like-minded folk who work at one or more of the Harvard University Herbaria. There are only a few available online--volume 1 number 5 (from whence I obtained the page that includes a letter I wrote to the editors of Orion magazine some time ago), volume 1 issue 2, and issue 3, in living color and .pdf format so they can be enjoyed in all their visual splendor.

I love this idea so much that I'm going to try something similar with my myth class this spring--a sort of in-class journal of stuff they write and create (the great thing about teaching in an art school is that you can actually ask students to do this and they will), and things they find that they think apply in one way or another. It'll be a one-off venture, but we can scan and share among ourselves--and perhaps with readers of the Cabinet.

Anyway, the real treasure here is not the "me" part, but the discovery of the Herbaria pages themselves. As an inveterate plant lover, erstwhile amateur naturalist (who can still identify every one of the eighteen "official" trees on her half acre, as well as all the volunteers that now occupy various corners of the Carbon Sink), Old China Hand, and certified museum junkie, this site offers nearly everything.

For example, check out the Digital Collections of such wonders as the SHIP initiative (images of seeds in the collection of the Arnold Arboretum) and links to the expedition collections of Joseph F. C. Rock, who explored the "Hengduan Mountains Hotspot" in western Sichuan and eastern Xizang (Tibet), China. I especially love the Arnold Arboretum Image Collection, which contains historical photos taken in the "Hotspot" region during the early twentieth century.

The website offers a mere glimpse into the richness of Harvard's collections, but since I didn't have any idea of their extent (and only vaguely knew of the herbaria at all), this amounts to a truly serendipitous find.