An Oak's Tale Comes to Royal Botanic Garden

Submitted by edg on Sat, 13 Oct '12 9.20am

A single 222-year-old oak tree is the star of a new exhibition at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), from October 12 to December 2.

The tree, felled on Blenheim Estate, near Oxford, was part of the innovative OneOak project to show people the life-cycle of a tree, in particular how it is processed for its timber and manufactured into a wide variety of wooden objects, ranging from a throne chair to tables, benches and wood block prints.

The OneOak project was created by the sustainable forestry charity the Sylva Foundation, in partnership with artists and craftsmen from throughout Britain, and the exhibition features some 50 items hewn from the oak.

The Sylva Foundation initiated the project as a way of bringing people closer to woodlands and illustrating the role of wood in modern society. The felling, in January 2010, was witnessed by 250 school children and 200 other guests. A year later they were invited back to each plant a young oak, so fulfilling a cycle of sustainable forest management.

The tree was grown initially for its timber, being planted in 1788; the year The Times was first published, when Mozart was working on his last symphony and when the French Revolution was just beginning to stir.

It became the most studied oak tree in Britain: it has been weighed, measured with lasers to create a 3D model, studied by a dendrochronologist, and had its carbon content estimated.

The Blenheim oak has also been featured by dozens of artists, sculptors and photographers. The OneOak website also features a series of videos, from timelapses of the felling to at the local sawmill to a sound bowl.

The oak is being brought to Edinburgh with funding from the Scottish Forestry Trust.

“This has been an amazing project that has inspired both the public and those who make a living working with wood and caring for our woodlands. Everyone has given their time to the project in so many different ways because they have been inspired by the concept: the realisation that trees and wood are still vital to life even in modern society," said Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation and project co-ordinator Dr Gabriel Hemery.

“After three years of hard work it has been immensely exciting to be able to bring together all the various elements of the OneOak project. We are able to show the public the stunning artwork, spell-binding films, earth-shattering science and a myriad of truly amazing wood-based products. The only products that we haven’t been able include in real life in the exhibition at RBGE will be a house and a boat,” he added.

Reflecting on the harmony between the origins of OneOak project and the work of RBGE, Exhibitions Officer Elinor Gallant, commented: “This is quite a remarkable exhibition detailing the lifecycle of an iconic tree. It is a story which links well with our experiences as a botanic garden and with our policy of communicating about the environment at every level. Having hosted two particularly well received drop-in sessions bringing insight to the project, back in January 2011, it makes absolute sense for RBGE to present the full exhibition. I am certain visitors of all ages will be delighted by both the beauty of the wood and the story behind why and how these remarkable pieces have come to be on display.”

The OneOak exhibition is at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh until 2 December 2012