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Library & Archives

From herbals and herbarium to rewilding and restoration, the library collection helps the work of our volunteers and employees. Using digital and printed sources, we deliver information and guidance to support RBG’s mission for professional results.

Our archival collections provide information on RBG’s history and the history of gardening in Canada. These collections include photographs, documents, videos, maps, and personal papers. We use these collections to tell the rich story of RBG and the long history of Canadian horticulture.

Our Library Collection

Nestled on the second floor of RBG Main Centre is the library collection of over 10,000 books and 2,000 journal titles. With a particular focus on plants and conservation work in Canada and Southern Ontario, the library includes material on:

  • gardening
  • botany
  • plant identification
  • conservation
  • museums and interpretation
  • garden history
  • horticultural therapy
  • and other relevant material.

Our small collection of rare books contains books dating back to 1601. This collection includes Canada’s earliest horticultural books, the journals of Canada’s first botanical societies and other highlights of Canadian, American, and British gardening and plant culture.

Serials round out the collection, providing articles and updates from international journals and organizations to local horticultural and naturalist societies

Our Archival Collections

RBG Corporate Archives

RBG corporate archives tell the story of the institution and the land. Through handwritten and typed letters and reports, photographs, newspaper clippings, publications, and maps, we document and preserve the historical and ongoing legacy of Royal Botanical Gardens.

  • Archival photo of rock garden early after construction, with very little plant growth
  • Archival image of changing a sign from Spring Garden to Laking Garden
  • archival photo of Princess Point at Cootes Paradise

Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies

Since 1979, the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies (CCHHS) has been collecting and preserving literature, documents, photographs, and artifacts important to the history of horticulture in Canada. This archival material spans three centuries of textual and photographic material of Canadian gardening and nursery industry. The collection reveals the trends, issues, and developments affecting professional and amateur gardeners and horticulturists.

  • Bruce 1890 seed catalogue cover
  • Isabella Preston standing in garden - archival photo
  • Steele Briggs seed catalogue 1929

Within the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies is Canada’s largest collection of seed and nursery trade catalogues, numbering over 30,000 catalogues. We also have important early Canadian horticultural books, flower and garden society journals.

The archive also has the personal papers, photographs, and business papers of many professional horticulturists and garden enthusiasts, like Isabella Preston, Robert Keith, and Mary Eliza Blacklock, to name a few. These individuals contributed significantly to the horticultural field through their writings, businesses, public works, and scientific endeavors.

Find out more about our collections here through our archival finding aids on Archeion.

What We Do

Through our library and archival collections, we provide research assistance and information sources to staff, volunteers, and external researchers. The library and archives also connect the community to our collections. This includes presentations on the history of RBG and Canadian horticulture, book reviews in RBG’s quarterly member magazine, displays focusing on stories from our archival collections, and a seed library available for the public.

We are digitizing our archival collections to help in distance access and the preservation of these materials for years to come. We have partnered with Biodiversity Heritage Library to provide access to our journal on Canadian Horticultural History that was published from 1986 to 1995.

Seed Library

Borrow, Grow, and Return!

Our seed library is one way we nurture that connection. We provide seeds that you borrow, grow, and then return. If you are new to gardening, interested in growing a greater diversity of plants, or invested in supporting a community of growers, our seed library will help you meet those goals.

Learn More