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From the Bodleian’s Public Engagement Department

Roots to Seeds: The Weston Library’s next exhibition based on MPLS research

After months of preparation, Roots to Seeds is now installed and is open in the ST Lee Gallery from 18 May. This exhibition, marking the anniversary of the foundation of the Oxford Botanic Garden in 1621, is an opportunity to reflect on four centuries of botanical research and teaching in the University. The lead curator of this exhibition is Professor Stephen Harris, Druce Curator (Herbaria), and Associate Professor in Plant Sciences.

Nineteenth century flower models used for teachingThe exhibition explores the ways in which botany was introduced and then developed in Oxford over the centuries. During the seventeenth century, a new natural philosophy became firmly rooted in Oxford University, especially through scholars’ strong associations with the fledgling Royal Society. Oxford Physic Garden was officially founded on 25 July 1621 on a flood-prone meadow leased from Magdalen College. The founding gift of £5,250, made by the English soldier Sir Henry Danvers, was spent on the Garden’s walls and the ‘mucke’ to improve its soil. Founded with a focus on medicinal plants, the Physic Garden became the stage upon which plant sciences evolved in the University for nearly 350 years. From these beginnings, the exhibition will trace the study of botany in Oxford through examining such aspects as the history of development of naming and classification of plants, the creation of the University Herbaria, the introduction of Agriculture and Forestry alongside Botany within Plant Sciences, the contemporary technology of molecular biology as applied to plants, and the legacies of colonialism, among many other subjects.

The majority of the material in the exhibition is from the Department of Plant Sciences’ collections, displayed alongside books and manuscripts from the Bodleian’s collections. Some highlights include Bobart the Elder’s Herbarium from 1687; the Botanic Garden’s first catalogue from 1648; watercolours and drawings by Ferdinand Bauer; a sample of the University Herbaria’s collection of dried fruits; fungal specimens collected in Germany in the 1880s; and a selection of wood blocks from the Oxford xylarium. Historic teaching materials are on display including a collection of nineteenth-century  flower models. Collaboration with botanists ensured accuracy and the models were often accompanied by detailed teaching notes.

‘Into the Green’ poetry project

To generate interest in the botanical sciences, the Bodleian’s Education team are working on outreach to secondary schools. One example is ‘Into the Green’, a poetry project working with Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum which will run in the school summer term. Picking up on the themes of the exhibition, and celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Botanic Gardens, ‘Into the Green’ invites secondary school pupils to write a poem inspired by plants, gardens and green spaces.  Award-winning professor of Poetry Alice Oswald will make a selection of poems for inclusion in an anthology. 

Library space and physical services

Low and zero-contact services provided from Bodleian sites were heavily used by students and researchers during Hilary term. During the nine-week period 4 January-7 March 2021:

  • Scan and Deliver: over 345,000 pages were scanned for readers
  • Click and Collect: more than 8,000 physical books were loaned
  • Live chat: more than 1,500 live chat consultations took place

Following the University moved to BCP2 on April 12, all Bodleian sites have now opened their reading rooms (with the exception of the Knowledge Centre on Old Road Campus).

The weekly bookable study space capacity across the Bodleian system will be over 14,000 in Trinity term - an increase of over 4, 000 on the highest weekly capacity for Hilary Term 2021. 

The Bodleian Libraries is committed to ensuring fair access to reading room slots and have therefore introduced a suspension policy for Trinity term for readers who routinely miss their reading room slot and do not cancel. Further information can be found on the guidance for booking a reading room slot and reminders will be displayed on Space Finder and the booking confirmation emails.

Readers may appeal to have their suspension lifted in the cases of error or for a legitimate reason.  If readers have a disability and have been unable to cancel a booked slot on time or require any other help, they are encouraged to contact the Disability Librarian.

Online resources

New Elsevier collection

Elsevier’s Freedom+ collection package went live in Oxford at the start of March and has led to a very significant increase in ebook usage from ScienceDirect. There were 14,000 Elsevier ebook downloads this March compared to just 1,900 in March 2020 – with over 10,000 of these coming from the new Elsevier content.


Access to the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service was switched back on at Oxford in January providing access online to 1.5 million online textbooks normally available to students on our shelves.

New resources for MPLS

We now have online access to the following, as well as 27 new titles from CABI:

Training for Trinity term

Topics covered include:

  • information discovery
  • reference management
  • research metrics
  • copyright and protecting your intellectual property
  • Open Access publishing
  • research data management