Selections from Dornith Doherty’s Archiving Eden.
Doherty on her project:
Since 2008 I’ve worked in an ongoing collaboration with renowned biologists at two of the most comprehensive international seed banks in the world: the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Colorado, and the Millennium Seed Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England. In this era of climate change and declining biodiversity, by collecting, researching seed biology, and storing seeds in secure 0º F vaults, seed banks play a vital role in ensuring the survival of genetic diversity in wild and agricultural species.
Utilizing the archives’ on-site x-ray equipment that is routinely used for viability assessments of accessioned seeds, I document and subsequently collage the seeds and tissue samples stored in these crucial collections. The amazing visual power of magnified x-ray images, which springs from the technology’s ability to record what is invisible to the human eye, illuminates my considerations not only of the complex philosophical, anthropological, and ecological issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in relation to gene banking, but also of the poetic questions about life and time on a macro and micro scale. I am struck by the power of these tiny plantlets and seeds (many are the size of a grain of sand) to generate life and to endure the timespan central to the process of seed banking, which seeks to make these sparks last for two hundred years or more.