About This Project

This Omeka site was created as part of a Digital Humanities Master's thesis by Heather Rogers (MISt, MA) and features the botanical collections of Dr. Dorothy Newton Swales, the first woman to curate the Macdonald College (later McGill University) Herbarium from 1964 to 1971.

From a young age, Swales was fascinated by the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world. This enchantment spurred a lifelong dedication to studying and preserving the various plants she encountered as well as sharing her botanical knowledge with those around her. This Omeka site features the different flowering plants, grasses, and lichens that she collected throughout the course of her life. The collection includes vouchers from her travels across Switzerland in 1930 as a graduate student to the Arctic lichens and flowering plants she encountered during summer fieldwork to expand the Herbarium collection in the 1960s.

The creation of this site was influenced by the field of critical plant studies and the material ecocritical concept of storied matter. Storied matter attests that all aspects of the material world, whether in the form of “ice or a stone, a fossil fragment or bacteria... yield terrestrial tales of resilience, creativities, uncertainties, evolution, and dissolution in nondeterministic ways."1 Viewing preserved plants as storied matter helps us to see them as "active co-authors that shape this world and co-determine our existence" and not simply as static objects.2 

Storying each plant, so to speak, requires gathering as much information that can be found about the common names, cultural history, and environment. While this project does not attempt to be an exhaustive database of botanical information, it strives to expand on the information on botanical voucher labels to bring the stories of each plant into the foreground. 

1. Oppermann 412. For more information on Storied Matter and Material Ecocriticism, see Oppermann, Serpil. “Storied Matter.” Posthuman Glossary, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, Bloomsbury Academic, 2018, pp. 411–14.

2. Oppermann 413