Introducing the Archives

While many visitors marvel at the stunning displays above ground, there’s a lesser-known treasure nestled within – the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Archive. The Archives step into the hidden world of The Gardens, and dig deep into the makings of this green oasis. Today, we introduce our Archive Development Officer, Salomea Chlebowska, who’s well underway on her journey to safeguard our rich heritage for generations to come.

A Tale of Resilience

The story of our Archive is one of resilience and determination. Initially stored haphazardly within the Gardens’ offices, the precious papers of the Birmingham Botanical and Horticultural Society faced an uncertain fate. In a heart-breaking turn of events, it was discovered in the 1980s that these invaluable documents were being disposed of to make more room indoors. Thankfully, a vigilant Trustee intervened, leading to their safekeeping at the University of Birmingham Library.

Introducing the Archives

A sample of the archives.

Fast forward to the year 2000, when Ian Nex, a retired Gardener with a passion for preservation, assumed the role of Archivist. His dedication saw the start of gradual organisation and sorting of our records, along with a wave of generous donations from those keen to preserve our botanical legacy. However, with Ian’s retirement in 2022, the torch was passed to a new guardian of history.

Meet Salomea Chlebowska

Introducing the Archives

Salomea Chlebowska, Archive Development Officer.

The Gardens welcomed Salomea Chlebowska as Archive Development Officer at the beginning this year. Salomea was born in Poland and moved to Lancaster where she completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Previously, she conducted archival research at the university and later worked in the Lancashire Archives in Preston and on different Oral History Libraries. Salomea brings a fresh perspective to our archival journey and her appointment marks a pivotal moment in our journey towards accessibility and engagement.

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Developing the Archive of Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a challenging, but extremely important task, considering the Gardens’ rich history and changes that happened throughout the years” said Salomea. 

Embracing the Future

As we embark on this new chapter, our aspirations extend beyond mere preservation. With the support of the National Lottery Fund Grant, our Archive Project forms an integral part of the Gardens’ Capital Project ‘Growing Our Green Heritage’. The Archive Project not only aims to organise and catalogue our collections, but also to digitise select records, making them accessible to a global audience through our website.

Moreover, we envision a future where the Archive transcends its confines, inviting visitors to delve into the stories throughout the Gardens history. From the tireless efforts of past Horticulturists to the countless events that have graced our grounds, every document holds a piece of our collective history and the history of Birmingham.

Through engaging exhibitions and experiences, we aim to ignite a passion for discovery among visitors of all ages, fostering a deeper connection to the Gardens and the community it serves. Stay tuned as we reveal more about the archives in the following months.