Margaret N. Dykens, Exhibit Curator
Margaret Dykens' background makes her uniquely
qualified to serve as curator of Plant Portraits: The California
Legacy of A.R. Valentien, a fine arts exhibition that is rooted
in natural history and botany.
Growing up in Florida, Margaret spent her childhood
outdoors, developing a keen appreciation for natural history. In
college and graduate school, she illustrated research papers on
fish, marine invertebrates, birds, and plants.
She received her Master's degree in Biology at the College of William
and Mary in Virginia where her thesis focused on coastal plain plants.
After graduation, she was hired as Staff Illustrator at the Harvard
University Herbarium illustrating numerous botanical monographs.
Margaret earned a second graduate degree in library
science from the University of Michigan School of Information in
1993. Excited about working in a library devoted to natural history,
she became the Director of the Research Library for the San Diego
Natural History Museum in 1997.
The magnitude and quality of the art collections
of the library were an unexpected joy. Upon learning that the exquisite
collection of 1,094 Valentien watercolors from the early 1900s had
never been published, Margaret's mission became to share the beauty
and natural history they portrayed with the public. As a botanical
artist, she especially appreciated Valentien's mastery of technique,
as well as the consistent quality he maintained over such a large-scale
project. Fortunately, Eleanor and Jerry Navarra came forward in
2000 as generous donors for the project. The Irvine Museum also
committed to a collaborative effort with the SDNHM to publish Valentien's
work and produce an exhibit of these paintings.
This invaluable collection of art, which speaks
so eloquently of California's botanical diversity, has now been
preserved, cataloged, photographed, and re-housed for posterity.
The paintings Valentien had hoped would illustrate a book on California’s
flora were finally published in December 2003, almost a century
after he began.
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