The Department of Botany and the United States Botanic Garden will convene the 2017 Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, "Exploring the Natural World: Plants, People and Places," to be held at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., on May 19, 2017.
History hides behind our garden and museum displays. Plants and artifacts can be themselves objects of wonder, but scratch the surface and every item on display or curated for scientific study has a deeper story as to how it was collected and came to be included in our mostly urban cultural institutions. Large sponsored expeditions or even just curious individuals set off to explore remote corners of the world, and brought back plants, animals, and other natural history treasures. Often the focus was on a particular route or region. Sometimes circumstance caused an individual to take up residence in an unfamiliar part of the world and day-to-day observations of the new environment lead to discoveries that were sent home to eager audiences. Every garden, museum, and herbarium collection has grown and continues to grow through a delightful and maddening combination of purpose and accident.