The Memory of Gardens

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, the Garden Conservancy presented "The Memory of Gardens," at La.venue in New York City. Christopher Woodward, director of the Garden Museum in London, in conversation with James Brayton Hall, president and CEO of the Garden Conservancy, discussed the ways in which preservationists can use archives and literature, commissioned art and film—and the gift of plants—to capture the legacy of outstanding gardens. The program was made possible by the Garden Conservancy's Coleman and Susan Burke Education Fund.

Some of the questions they addressed were: As we endeavor to find ways to preserve gardens for future generations, we are faced with the reality that, because of their fragility, some gardens will vanish. How do we preserve their spirit, so garden enthusiasts can continue to be inspired by the visions of their creators?

Above is a documentary video of the full program (one hour, eight minutes long); below are four short video excerpts.


Christopher Woodward has been director of the Garden Museum in London since 2007. He recently led a £7.5 million reconstruction and extension of the site and gardens, creating new galleries of garden history and an education center and setting up Britain's first archive of garden design.

Christopher is an historian of architecture and gardens. He was previously director of the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath, England, and a curator at Sir John Soane's Museum. He has also served as a board member of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the UK's national body responsible for funding both built and natural heritage.

His book In Ruins (2001) was short-listed for the national prize for young writers, and he has just completed a study of the history of nostalgia. Christopher's personal obsession is swimming, and to help raise funds for the Garden Museum project he has done swims of the Hellespont, Strait of Gibraltar, the 110 miles of the River Thames from Oxford to London, and, last month, 30 km within the Arctic Circle, each swim inspired by botanist John Tradescant (1580-1638), whose life is the inspiration of the Garden Museum.

James Brayton Hall joined the Garden Conservancy as president and CEO on June 1, 2017. For the previous four years, he was deputy director of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he worked on the planning and design of the Norman Foster-designed museum expansion and sculpture gardens. From 2010 to 2013, he was executive director of the Providence Preservation Society in Rhode Island, overseeing all programming, fundraising, and relations with the board, donors, and community. From 2006 to 2010, James served as assistant director of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, after holding various other management and curatorial positions at the school since 1985. 

James has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and a master’s in landscape architecture from Rhode Island School of Design. In addition, he was awarded a Royal Oak Scholarship to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School in Architectural and Landscape History in London, and, separately, participated in the Victorian Society’s summer program in architectural history, also in London. In 2016, he was accepted to and completed Attingham’s Royal Collections Course. He has spoken widely on architectural and landscape design and has been a member of the graduate program faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design.