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Rotterdam Cultural Histories #22: Hortus Botanicus

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Our institution’s building — located on Witte de Withstraat 50 in Rotterdam — stands on what was the original location of the city’s nineteenth-century Hortus Botanicus. Sited on these grounds from 1826 to 1870, this botanical garden was established for educational purposes, especially used by the Clinical School (1828–1866). In 1870, the Hortus Botanicus was demolished to pave new roads, including Witte de Withstraat, and to build the surrounding area as envisioned in a city plan developed by William Nicolaas Roos.

For this twenty-second edition of Rotterdam Cultural Histories, newly recovered documents and maps of the Rotterdam Hortus Botanicus are presented here. Among the materials is a plant catalog kept by the Hortolanus Carsten Witte. This small book extensively documented the botanical garden plants according to stars and planetary markers, such as the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It also includes dried leaves and flowers, which are purported specimens of that historic botanical garden.

The research for this presentation was done in collaboration with the Rotterdam Stadsarchief. It was developed in conjunction with an art commission to the painter Sam Samiee. Fascinated by both gardens and psychoanalysis, Samiee turns his focus on this building’s side street, Boomgaardsstraat, which intersects Witte de Withstraat today and which once marked the perimeter of the Hortus Botanicus. The artist’s exhibition, A Garden of Clouds, is sited in the gallery upstairs.

This edition of Rotterdam Cultural Histories, as well as Sam Samiee’s A Garden of Clouds, are both part of our Anchored project series. Begun in 2020, Anchored explores the histories of our building, street, and neighbors. Rotterdam Cultural Histories #22: Hortus Botanicus is organized by a team at Kunstinstituut Melly: Paul van Gennip, Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos, Jeroen Lavèn and Vivian Ziherl.

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