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What is Quarantine Herbarium?

Conceived during the early days of lockdown, Quarantine Herbarium has been set up to help people observe local flora in detail while enjoying the satisfying process of making a beautiful print at home using a free kit.

The idea is that this participatory botanical photography project helps build up an online and physical collection of specimens from around the UK, forming an important record of an unusual interaction with an oft overlooked part of the natural world. See the results so far on the Quarantine Herbarium Instagram feed.

Through the process, whereby participants are encouraged to identify the plants they’re capturing, it’s hoped that it will go some way towards alleviating ‘plant blindness’* – where we struggle to recognise diverse flora.

One of the artists behind the project, William Arnold, exhibited his own cameraless photographs as part of our Radical Botany exhibition. That’s why we thought you might want to have a go!

What is a cyanotype?

It’s a historical photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print using the sun and light-sensitive paper. Did you know, this is where we get the word blueprint? Engineers used to use the process as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings.

How do I get involved?

Unfortunately we've reached capacity for the limited number of free kits we had to give away, but read on to see how you can make your own using Quarantine Herbarium's online resources.

The Quarantine Herbarium team is inviting people who live in the UK to make cyanotypes of flowers in their local area, and send them in to the collection, by applying for one of a limited number of free kits, funded by Arts Council England. The kit includes light-sensitive cyanotype paper and full instructions on how to collect your plants and identify them, how long to expose it all to sunlight, how to reveal your gorgeous print, and where to send the results.

How could I make my own cyanotype?

If you miss out on one of the 40 free kits, follow these simple instructions from the team on how to make your own, and how to identify your plant. The Quarantine Herbarium team would still love to see your results: share them using the hashtag #quarantineherbarium and tag them with @quarantineherbarium on Instagram or @quarantineherb on Facebook or Twitter

Who’s behind Quarantine Herbarium?

Quarantine Herbarium is led by Gem Toes-Crichton, William Arnold and John A. Blythe.

*Plant blindness, a term coined by botanists James Wandersee and Elisabeth Schussler in 1998, refers to a cognitive bias in which we struggle to recognise and appreciate the value of diverse flora over zoological forms, especially prestige species.

Photo of cyanotypes, from left to right: Bluebells by Freja Leeds, Boscastle, Cornwall; Fern by Noah, 10 years old, Truro, Cornwall; Cow parsley by Sera Wyn Walker, Aberystwyth.