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Announcing our new Brotherton Fellow 2024


LAHRI and the Library Special Collections teams are delighted to announce that our latest Brotherton Fellow is Dr Benjamin Skinner. You can read all about his project, 'Encounters with Flora' below. Further updates will follow over the coming months.

Ben Skinner surrounded by tropical plants

Ben says: My research investigates how to use art and art-making to teach people about biodiversity and environmental awareness in busy towns and cities. Rather than encouraging people to imagine nature as a bucolic vista, I aim to draw attention to the urban ecology that survives (and often flourishes) in our shared, multispecies habitats. Whilst we all might enjoy spending time in these urban green spaces our knowledge of the flora that can be found there has declined in the face of our collective preference for supermarket shopping over seasonal foraging. This fellowship is an opportunity to draw to light pre-industrial botanical literature in the Cookery Collection to help people reconnect with the natural environment and the medicinal and nutritional benefits of consuming what can be found there.

Using my skills as an illustrator, I will design a contemporary urban foraging guidebook that invites the reader to explore their surroundings and notice the variability (and uses) of plant species encountered in our day-to-day lives. Cataloguing how to harvest bark, roots, seeds, flowers, and fruits will draw attention to the utility of what is often overlooked. In tandem with the development of the guidebook, I will lead exploratory walks through green spaces adjacent to the university campus to encourage academics and students to take breaks from their busy schedules and appreciate their proximity to the wonders of our shared natural world.