Showing on the Cabell Screen Nov. 1 – 30

VCU Libraries hosts “Ancarrow’s List: Native Plants at the River’s Edge” in James Branch Cabell Library. See the exhibit on the first floor during regular library hours.

Inspired by Newton Ancarrow’s compendium of wildflowers native to the James River, the exhibit features selected botanical illustrations from artists around the east coast. Their work is inspired by a digital collection by VCU Libraries.

Ancarrow’s List is a compendium of native plants growing along the James River that were documented and photographed by Newton Ancarrow in the 1970s. Ancarrow, a Richmond native, owned a boat-building business on the James, at a place now called Ancarrow’s Landing in the James River Park System. Pollution in the James River damaged his high-end wooden boats, so he went in search of the pollution sources. What he found appalled him. He began a new chapter of environmental activism and spurred the cleanup of the James River.

Along the way, Ancarrow noticed wildflowers. Teaching himself botany and photography, he took about 35,000 slides. These slides are archived at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and many were digitized by VCU Libraries. He used these slides in creating a “flower show,” that he presented to garden clubs, wildlife federations and other environmental groups. This created awareness and motivation to protect these plants by protecting the river. Ancarrow’s boat business was eventually lost to pollution and storms, but his legacy of a cleaner James River continues on.

More about the Ancarrow collection 

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