13 April 2015

Seaweed collecting - a Victorian hobby

From Collector's Weekly:
Seaweed collecting embodied a cross-section of Victorian-era pursuits, allowing people to explore nature, improve their scientific knowledge, and create an attractive memento to decorate their homes. By the 1840s, several books on identifying and preserving seaweed had been published...

Both men and women participated in these cultural trends, and there were definitely male seaweed collectors. In fact, Mary Carrington’s album contains a calling card for a man named W. H. Gould onto which has been placed beside a tiny seaweed specimen. But while male collectors were able to join the ranks of the professional scientists, women were largely restricted to domesticated versions of the same occupations. They were encouraged to collect seaweed not as a scientific undertaking but as a sentimental hobby and a social accomplishment.

Part of the appeal was what a seaweed collection said about the collector. Anyone could appreciate and collect flowers, but painstakingly obtaining, preserving, and mounting seaweed specimens demonstrated patience, artistic talent, and the refined sensibilities necessary to appreciate the more subtle beauties of nature. Queen Victoria herself made a seaweed album as a young lady.


  1. Since you've posted about Wikipedia and collecting on the same day, it seems relevant to mention that I had a hand in the Wikipedia article on "Collecting".

    (Which still needs a lot of work. Someone once pasted an enormous and unencyclopaedic infodump into that article that subsequent editors have gradually whittled down, but parts of the article are still fragments of that original infodump and as such more than a little awkward. Also, I think demarcation with the article on "Collectable" is sorely in need of refinement.)

    1. Good for you, Adrian. I wish I could find the time to do the same thing. Sending $ is of course the simple way out.


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