Digital collection of wildflower photography is a ‘time capsule’ from the early days of the James River Park System

Richmond environmentalist and James River advocate Newton Ancarrow took thousands of photos of wildflowers along the James River, including these shots of Grape Hyacinth, Blood Root and Rocket Larkspur.

Richmond environmentalist and James River advocate Newton Ancarrow took thousands of photos of wildflowers along the James River, including these shots of Grape Hyacinth, Blood Root and Rocket Larkspur.

Between 1968 and 1971, Richmond environmentalist and James River advocate Newton Ancarrow snapped thousands of photographs of wildflowers, documenting more than 400 species, as he walked along the banks of the James, searching for evidence of illegal sewage dumping into the river.

Ancarrow, who is perhaps best remembered today for his namesake, the James River Park System’s easternmost waterfront park area and boat launch, Ancarrow’s Landing, used his wildflower photos as part of a slideshow presentation he gave to Richmond garden clubs, women’s groups and civic organizations as part of his efforts to drum up community support for a cleaner James River.

The 354 wildflower photographs in that presentation, titled “Flower Show No. 2,” have been digitized by VCU Libraries and are being shared publicly for the first as an online digital collection, the Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive.

“These slides are special because they’re a snapshot in time at the very early beginnings of the James River Park System — before, during and maybe even a little bit after it was created,” said Anne Wright, director of outreach education for the VCU Rice Rivers Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “So, as a time capsule, they’re very interesting.”

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