Speaker: Joanna Marschner (Historic Royal Palaces)

Current debates over the history of racism and empire highlight the urgent moral imperative to address the consequences of the global impact of empire in key British heritage institutions. Historic Royal Palaces, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have joined with the University of Oxford and University of Southampton to craft an internationally grounded research project Imperial Gardens: Palaces, Plants and Politics. The project has the ambition to make a major contribution to this field of scholarship through a study of the creation and development of three internationally significant royal gardens and landscapes at Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and Kew, in the context of British royal and imperial ambition between 1660 and 1861. These grounds, accessible from the seventeenth century and swiftly adopted as public spaces, are recognised as aesthetic symbols of British identity, yet there is little appreciation that they were entrepots of empire in appropriating and managing plant productions. This presentation will explore the process by which the team have returned to the rich specimen, artefact, and documentary archives, with the intention that these be marshalled and reappraised to enrich, reshape and diversify traditional narratives of empire, creating a new knowledge base from which the royal and other historic gardens and landscapes in the UK, and overseas, can be understood and interpreted in innovatory, inclusive ways. The project team will be interested in the audience response to the project plan so far, to ensure that it best serves the widest community. 

Dr Joanna Marschner is Senior Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. She has managed many exhibition projects and interpretation programmes within HRP, as well as complex multi-partner research initiatives, including an AHRC-funded research project, Queen Victoria’s Self-fashioning: Curating the Royal Image for Dynasty, Nation and Empire, 2018-2020.

IHR Seminar Series: History of Gardens and Landscapes