Plant Records Manager, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
During her childhood, Kristina Aguilar spent 13 years in the Girl Scouts, collecting nature badges and planting the seeds of a lifetime love for the natural world. Her interest in horticulture continued through college where she pursued an Ornamental Horticulture degree. During her undergraduate studies at Cornell University , she worked two winter sessions at the New York Botanic Garden in the Plant Records department where she discovered a passion for curation. Kristina became the first annual intern at UDBG in 2000, and also took on the role of curator because the Curatorial Graduate Assistantship had not yet been created. During her internship, she gained experience with two commonly used programs for plant record keeping: BG-BASE and BG-Map. Learning to navigate these programs was essential to her success in future jobs.
After her internship at UDBG, Kristina accepted a position as the very first Plant Recorder at Mt. Cuba Center. She was hired to begin its plant records and mapping databases and collect data on plants in the garden. Previously a private garden and estate, Mt. Cuba Center became a public garden with the death of Mrs. Copeland in 2001. Kristina was able to witness the transition from private to public garden and assisted with the planning of public programs, such as Mt. Cuba Center’s first wildflower celebration.
In 2003, staff from Longwood Gardens, hoping to learn more about BG-BASE and BG-Map, visited Kristina at Mt. Cuba Center. In 2006, she was offered the Plant Records Manager position at Longwood Gardens to help them build two newly acquired plant records databases: BG-BASE and BG-MAP. Since 2006, she has been cataloging, mapping, and labeling Longwood’s extensive plant collection. Starting ten years ago, Kristina, supervising volunteers and students, gathered images, bloom data, and plant descriptions to fill an online searchable plant database called Plant Explorer. Longwood launched Plant Explorer in 2010, and it was one of the first online plant databases of its kind available to the public. Kristina’s favorite part of her job is sharing her knowledge and interest in plants with people through signage and technology.