You are here:Home/Research/ Mellon Initiatives/ Plant Humanities

Plant Humanities Initiative

In September 2018 Dumbarton Oaks received a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with a sister grant to JSTOR Labs, to advance Plant Humanities. This new, interdisciplinary field explores and communicates the unparalleled significance of plants to human culture. Plants offer remarkable scope for research and interpretation due to their global mobility and historical significance to human cultures. Their travels offer intriguing roadmaps to cross-cultural exchange and the movement of people, while the importance of plants to fields as diverse as medicine, the history of science, environmental studies, art, and art history renders them a compelling focus for interdisciplinary conversations. Climate change and environmental degradation add to the urgency of researching plant-human interactions and combating the inability to recognize and acknowledge the diversity and importance of plants that has become known as plant blindness.

The Plant Humanities Initiative integrates digital humanities with scholarly programming, building on the strengths of the two partner organizations, Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR Labs. A product of this collaboration is a digital platform that will highlight rare and unique materials in the Dumbarton Oaks rare book collection and connect these materials to Global Plants and other primary and secondary digitized sources through interactive and visually engaging storytelling. Our hope is that by bringing together different resources related to plants, this endeavor will generate new research questions. To develop the content for the digital platform, Dumbarton Oaks offers new research and professional development opportunities for early-career humanists through an array of scholarly programs.

Following a model that is also being applied to other Dumbarton Oaks projects, the project team includes graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and staff. These scholars and digital humanists draw on the riches of the research library, the historic garden, and a rare book collection that is particularly strong in garden history, landscape architecture, botanical illustration, and plant history.

Meet the Team



Awards and Opportunities

Faculty Residencies

Weeklong summer residencies pair college instructors and faculty from a broad spectrum of institutions, including four-year teaching institutions and community colleges, with library and curatorial staff

Plant Humanities Summer Program

July 1–26, 2019 | Program for advanced undergraduates and graduate students with an interest in plants from perspectives as different as botany, botanical exploration, the history of science and medicine, environmental studies, art history, and the history of the book and botanical illustration

Mellon Fellowships in Plant Humanities

Annual Plant Humanities Fellowships provide research and professional development opportunities for advanced graduate students, recent PhD graduates, and recent Master of Landscape Architecture graduates. Applications are due November 1.