A Library of Seeds is a project by Joss Allen investigating seed saving practices at the Maunula Allotments in Central Park.
Seed saving is an important practice, threatened by large multinational seed companies that have increasing power over our food system through the privatisation and patenting of seeds. Already hundreds of cultivated plant varieties have been lost, alongside their history and the skills and knowledges associated with them.
The project seeks to find out what kinds of plants are grown at the allotments. Are there any locally specific varieties that have been cultivated at the allotments for generations? With the local gardeners, the project explores how seeds (and the stories, skills and knowledges associated with them) might become part of the Central Park Archives and aims to establish a local seed library through this process. A seed library is a form of commons through which people share seeds. Unlike a seed bank, its purpose is not to hold or store seeds indefinitely but rather to disseminate them: to preserve heirloom, rare and distinct local varieties by keeping those plants in cultivation and out of privatisation.
Overall, the project is about celebrating seeds and our relationship with them, and how we might become more attentive to the agency of things other than human. Seeds and plants (even the weeds), soils, and insects (even the pests) play an important role here too. How might we begin to view them as collaborators in this process, rather than simply as resources or things to be managed? How might we collectively create a multispecies archive or library?
A Library of Seeds is realized as an artist residency in the context of the Central Park Archives project. The process includes an exploratory phase in August-September 2021 and a celebration in the Spring of 2022.