The Landscape Institute’s recently formed College of Fellows held its first annual meeting at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Reading

Members of the newly formed College of Fellows
Members of the newly formed College of Fellows at MERL, new home for the Landscape Institute archive.

Speaking at the meeting, Paj Valley, chair of the college, said, ‘We have to remember that the fellows are  a valuable asset, with considerable knowledge and experience.’ The aims of the College should, he explained, be to help harness that asset both within the institute and in the broader world. Fellows should be able to act as ambassadors for landscape, to help disseminate knowledge. They also have a vital fund-raising role.

Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, speaking at the event, said, ‘The fellows collectively represent the best of the institute. I look forward to a long list of all the things that you will deliver over the next few years.’

Following group discussions, the fellows came up with a number of suggestions for the way that they could operate. These included:

• Lobbying chief executives of local authorities on how well-designed landscape could help encourage activity among children.

• Lobbying local authorities on their work in public health and landscape.

• Spreading the knowledge to other members of the institute of what fellowship is, and the advantages of applying for it.

• Briefing fellows on LI policy , so that they can help disseminate it.

• Looking at the possibility of creating regional fellows.

• Inspiring young people to study landscape architecture at degree level.

The fellows visited the archives at MERL, which Penny Beckett, honorary treasurer of the LI, described as ‘a safe house and a sanctuary’. Guy Baxter, who is archivist at the University of Reading, of which MERL is a part, explained the range of collections that MERL holds, many of which are surprisingly complementary to the LI collection.

They include the archives of the Campaign to Protect Rural England as well as Suttons Seeds. ‘What are we going to do with the Landscape Institute’s archive?’ he asked. ‘We want to make the LI archive available to as many people as possible,’ Baxter said. ‘That is what we do here. We want to do this in a way that works well.’

The challenges for the future, he explained, will be to do with digitisation, with the need to be selective about adding to collections, and the challenges of preservation. ‘But isn’t it wonderful that we are meeting these challenges?’ he said.

Rachel Binnington, the consulting archivist who helped the institute settle on MERL as the home for the archive, said, ‘Sometimes you get what you want and what you need. The LI could not have found a better home for the library and archive.’

The Landscape Institute is setting up a friends group to support the archive and raise funds for its future development. The aim is to reach around 75-100 founder members. There are currently 67, including : James Corner (field operations, NY); Marc Trieb, UC Berkeley; Thorbjorn Andersson (Sweden);  Prof Charles McKeen (Dundee); Dr Tony Kendle (Eden Project); Dominic Cole; Ed Bennis and a number of past presidents, fellows and academics.

At their inaugural annual meeting, members of the College of Fellows also heard presentations from Derek Woolerton on Thomas Mawson, and from Paul Bramhill on the future of landscape managers.

In addition to their visit to MERL, they had a tour of Reading University’s campus and botanic garden.

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