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Drew University Students Mix Flowers and Language in Hands-On Experience

A floriography exhibit is on display at the United Methodist Archives and History Center

January 2023 – Maybe you haven’t heard of floriography, but three Drew University students have.

Mary Cannaday G’22’24, Maura Kelly C’24, and Sophia Patti C’23 worked with Drew’s Special Collections and University Archives to create an exhibit on floriography, the language of flowers.

Candace Reilly, manager of Special Collections, spearheaded the exhibit using the center’s Zuck Collection to bring the meanings of flowers to life.

“Floriography is all about communication,” she said. “We curated the exhibit around the history of floriography and the specific meanings of certain popular flowers such as the rose, the lily, and the tulip. The colors of the flowers also play an important role. For example, many know that a red rose means love, which makes it such a popular choice for Valentine’s Day. However, many flower dictionaries describe the yellow rose as an exhibit of decreased love. Something to be mindful of when gifting a bouquet! ”

For the students, it was a chance to earn valuable, transferable skills.

Patti, an anthropology major and media & communications minor, researched specific flowers, including the lily, and promoted the exhibit to fellow students via social media.

“This opportunity was very enlightening. It taught me how an exhibit is created and what goes into making it a reality,” said Patti, who plans to explore museum studies as a profession, after additional education on the subject.

“This kind of opportunity opens doors to be creative while also being a part of something educational. I’ll be able to look back on my undergraduate experience knowing I participated in major archival showcases. Opportunities to work closely with the special collections are something that feels once-in-a-lifetime and very special to be a part of.”

Kelly, an art history major and museum studies and anthropology double minor, helped install the exhibit, selecting books and pages for display.

“I got more hands-on experience using archival-safe plastic to keep the books open, curating the display cases, and collaborating with coworkers,” said Kelly. “Since I want to go into the archival and museum world, this opportunity was a very fun and insightful experience in curating and installing a main exhibit.”

Cannaday is a History & Culture PhD candidate in the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, having already earned her MA in the program. For this exhibit, she researched the history of language of flowers, relevant poetry and literature, and book selection, and set up the final display.

“The hands-on experience and opportunity to add to my resume and CV is great,” said Cannaday. “These are things I did not have a chance to do during my undergraduate years, so I really appreciate the opportunity to hone these skills at Drew.”

The Floriography: The Language of Flowers exhibit will be on display through May 8, 2023.

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