About Changing Perspectives

●  Discover Your Own Trail ●  New Elizabethan Garden ●  Enabling The Change 

IMG_8324Changing Perspectives: a Garden through time is a digital exhibition about the history of the eastern half of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the 1950s to the twenty-first century.
Over the past six decades, new ideas and concepts have changed the ways the eastern half of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been developed through innovative plantings and landscape designs. Changing Perspectives: a Garden through time follows the development of these new plantings and explores why and how ideas were introduced – such as the Winter Garden, the Dry Garden, the Scented Garden, the Genetics Garden and the Ecological Mound.

IMG_8377Discover Your Own Trail  You are invited to discover and follow your own trail through the digital Garden. You can explore Decade-by-Decade from the 1950s through to the 2000s. Meet Key People who developed and managed the Botanic Garden and its innovative plantings. Listen to Garden Voices talking about the Garden across the years. You can view the Garden From the Air and scroll though the changes over time along the virtual Timeline. Current scientific concerns that have become part of our environmental vocabulary since WWII – Sustainability, ConservationBiodiversity, Ecology and Environmental Restoration – are discussed under Themes. The What is a Botanic Garden? section highlights shifting ideas about the Botanic Garden and its evolving role into the twenty-first century.  Explore, discover and enjoy learning more about Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Plant Sciences.

New Elizabethan Garden
The new eastern area of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden may be considered a New Elizabethan Garden, having been developed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Work began on the Garden, coinciding with the accession of the young Queen in 1952, and Her Majesty visited most recently in 2011 (right © Nigel Luckhurst, CUBG) for the official opening of the Sainsbury Laboratory for Plant Sciences.  The story of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden follows the changes in our world and society during her dynamic reign period. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip was Chancellor of University of Cambridge between 1976 – 2011. During this time, the Duke visited the Botanic Garden on several occasions.  1980s, The Future is Now

IMG_8309The Scented Garden was developed in 1960 to appeal especially to blind visitors. Also known as the Sensory Garden, its plantings include highly-scented genera, as well as tactile grasses and plants chosen for their sensual qualities. New and innovative landscaping designs, such as the Scented Garden, indicate changing attitudes to the social inclusion of visitors in the twentieth century.

Using archival sources and oral history interviews with key people, the Changing Perspectives: a Garden through time project rediscovers some of the stories behind the making of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  It explores philosophies and ideas that influenced the contemporary Garden enjoyed by thousands of students and visitors.

Enabling the Change   Following a generous bequest from Reginald Cory, John Gilmour (Director 1951 – 1973) and his team began to transform the eastern half of the Botanic Garden.  This new area evolved ‘in a piecemeal way without a master plan’, said Professor John Parker (Director 1996 – 2010).  The resulting garden therefore reflects changing ideas about our environment and about Plant Sciences since WWII, with its move towards Ecological Plantings, Sustainability, Wildflowers and Plant Conservation and Biodiversity.  The twenty-first century Cambridge University Botanic Garden reflects our shifting relationship with the environment, our preoccupations and our scientific priorities.  The developments enable us to chart changing perspectives echoed through the various plantings and landscapes in the contemporary Botanic Garden.


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This project is part of a post-doctoral internship project sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and co-ordinated by the University of Cambridge Museums’ Connecting Collections initiative under the Arts Council England (ACE).  Changing Perspectives: a Garden through time digital exhibition is curated by Dr Pippa Lacey, Connecting Connections, University of Cambridge Museums, 2013.

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                               All images © CUBG and Pippa Lacey, unless otherwise noted.