Archives Puzzles: Walcott’s Wild Flowers

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Each Monday, sit back, relax, and ease into the work week with puzzles created from images in our collections that have been designated as open access. Anyone can now download, transform, share, and reuse these images as part of Smithsonian Open Access, launched in 2020.

Though many talented botanical illustrators conducted their work in gardens, one could find Mary Morris Vaux Walcott perched on a stump with her sketching pad and watercolors after scaling mountains and exploring glaciers. Walcott was a talented artist as well as an active mountain climber. When her mother passed away when Walcott was nineteen, she took on the responsibilities of caring for her younger brothers and father. And that often meant accompanying her family on vacations to study geology in the Canadian Rockies. 

It was on one of these geological studies that she met Smithsonian Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott. She was 53. He was 64. A year later, the two adventurers, who shared a love for natural history, were married. The couple spent three to four months studying and researching together each year in the Canadian Rockies, where Mary Vaux Walcott painted hundreds of watercolors of native flowers. 

Between 1925 and 1928, Walcott contributed her botanical illustrations, on display below in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in a five-volume set, the proceeds of which went toward fundraising efforts for the Smithsonian.

Interested in learning more about Walcott? Don’t miss this blog post from Data Science Lab intern Tiana Curry, who discovered that dozens of specimens in the Smithsonian’s collections had been collected by Walcott, but misattributed to her husband after his death.

The Original

Watercolors of botanical illustrations on display in a building with art hanging on the walls.  

The Puzzle

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