Celebrating 150 years of the Arnold Arboretum in 2022 offers us an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on our storied past while looking ahead to a more effective, engaging, and sustainable future. Our mission has grown and flourished over the decades in tandem with our ever-expanding collection of woody plants from around the globe. While we continue to explore, collect, document, and share Earth’s biodiversity, our collections and landscape have gained new value and significance in addressing contemporary challenges. As we reflect on how far we’ve come as an institution, we recognize there is so much more we can and must do to marshal our efforts toward a greener world and a better society.
To achieve our aspirations, we are positioning the Arboretum to have more of an impact in understanding and mitigating the effects of global change, the most pressing responsibility of our era. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed the importance of the Arboretum as a free and open landscape in the city, a refuge for public health that demands a higher level of engagement with the diverse communities we serve. Part of this means ensuring that Olmsted’s ideal of equal and democratic access to urban green space is supported by the outreach and sense of welcome we provide to all our neighbors and visitors. It also means rethinking the ways we communicate with you, our valued members, who play such an essential role in shaping the Arnold Arboretum we all treasure.
This brings me to the very publication you are reading now. For nearly two decades, we have shared our progress, our expertise, and highlights from our extraordinary collections in the pages of our biannual members magazine, Silva. The original concept for Silva emerged from changes to our flagship publication, Arnoldia, which carried “News from the Arnold Arboretum” as a quarterly insert beginning in 1989. In 2004, this special section became its own magazine, published twice a year to coincide with our concentrated seasonal programming each spring and fall. For nearly two decades, Silva has been both an informative vehicle for us to communicate directly to our supporters as well as an attractive benefit of Arboretum membership.
In recent years—particularly with the emergence of ephemeral, pop-up offerings like Tree Mobs and the expansion of virtual programming during the pandemic—our ability to be nimble in sharing information and opportunities with Arboretum members has been challenged by the limitations and production schedule of a biannual print magazine. Rising print and mail costs have also severely handicapped our efforts to make Silva cost effective as a membership benefit. At the same time, we have greatly expanded and improved our resources for digital engagement across the institution, including a complete redesign of our website and the launch of our Expeditions application. The time and circumstances feel right to bring Silva into the digital realm as well.
While Silva will no longer arrive in your mailbox twice a year, it will reach your inbox more frequently—this spring issue will be followed by subsequent issues in summer, fall, and winter. This will allow us to share more of our stories with you, and each story will have the capacity to include more photographs, image galleries, and a greater variety of associated media—from links to other stories to sound clips to embedded video. We are thrilled by the expanded capabilities that digital Silva offers and look forward to bringing the entire run of Silva articles online as a reference in coming months. But most of all, we hope that this change will help us connect more often and in greater depth with our dedicated community of members. We are grateful for the confidence and support you give us, and hope that benefits like Silva bring the Arnold Arboretum and its work much closer to home.
William (Ned) Friedman
Director of the Arnold Arboretum and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
PS…I hope you will consider joining us for the next conversation in the sesquicentennial edition of our Director’s Series entitled The Magic and Meaning of a Garden of Trees. Our May 9 talk, Life: The Arnold Arboretum as an Institution of Public Health, explores the critical value of our landscape to connect urban dwellers with nature—a guiding focus of our designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, which has continued to build meaning and importance over time.