Opening of the Visitor Centre by the Prince and Princess of Wales

photo of plaque

The Visitor Information Centre at the Australian National Botanic Gardens was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales at a ceremony at 10 am on Thursday 7 November 1985.

The Royal couple were met by the Honourable Gordon Scholes, Minister for Territories; Mr J.D. Enfield, Secretary of the Department of Territories; and Dr Robert Boden, Director of the Gardens accompanied by his wife.

The public and selected school children were invited to attend.

Cultivar Release

At the time of the opening of the Visitor Centre, the Australian National Botanic Gardens released a cultivar, Helichrysum bracteatum 'Princess of Wales', a particularly good horticultural form of what later became Bracteantha bracteatum, now known as Xerochrysum bracteatum.

Canberra Times Supplement

A Royal Visit Souvenir supplement to the Canberra Times was inserted into that day's edition. It had been printed several days earlier.

Extract from the Canberra Times Supplement on 7 November 1985:

The newly-opened Visitor Information Centre heralds a new era for the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

The Centre, built in a post-modern architectural style, was designed by leading Melbourne architect, Peter Crone, and built by Costain Australia Ltd for the National Capital Development Commission.

The Centre occupies a prominent site near the Garden's entrance and is close to the new carpark extensions. It provides an introduction to the Gardens and a starting point for most visitors and for Ranger-guided tours. It is fully accessible to disabled people.

Landscaping around the Centre mirrors the use of natural stone in other areas of the Gardens. The use of sloping retaining walls is a conscious reference to the work of Walter Burley Griffin.

A large pond, which will eventually have a water cascade feeding into it, will feature native aquatic plants.

The Visitor Services Officer for the Gardens, Mr Murray Fagg, said a new information centre had been vital to cater for the increasing number of visitors to the Gardens.

'The old display area did not provide the space we needed to present regular exhibitions on native plant topics and provide other services to the public,' he said.

The lecture theatre, seating 100 people, will serve many functions. Mr Fagg said it would be used by educational groups, for small scientific conferences and to show environmental films.

It will be available by arrangement for groups such as garden clubs when they visit the Gardens.

Administration facilities will be housed upstairs above the lecture theatre. The provision of space for the Plant Sciences Library of the Gardens is also part of the present building program.

The Centre has been equipped with two exhibition spaces. One of these will be used to house permanent introductory displays while the other will be used for changing exhibitions. The first exhibition features the floral emblems of Australia, looking not only at their botany and horticulture but also their use as cultural motifs, both past and present.

The introductory displays include a model of the Gardens including the extension to the south, a random access vegetation slide series and a short video on the Gardens. A reading area with reference books enables visitors to read more about the plants and birds they have seen in the Gardens.

Visitors will be able to browse around the Gardens' bookshop which will contain a range of reference books of botanical and horticultural interest. The bookshop will not be operating when the Centre is officially opened on 7 November but it is hoped that it will open soon after.

The bookshop has perhaps the best view of any room in the Gardens and people gain a panoramic view of Lake Burley Griffin from this vantage point.

A special new 'public' herbarium is another feature of the Centre. This will house a collection of pressed flowering plant specimens for public access. Reference books and a microscope will be housed in this area where people wanting to identify native plants will be assisted.

A horticultural advisor is on duty to assist with public inquiries during the week, while other Gardens staff will be in the Centre on weekends.

Mr Fagg said the number of inquiries 'has increased steadily over the past five years and it is now necessary to have one staff member to answer these inquiries and give advice on native plants and gardening.'

click to enlarge
The Princess of Wales, Dr Robert Boden, Anne Boden, and the Prince of Wales in the Visitor Centre.

(click to enlarge)

Updated 12 December, 2002 by Murray Fagg (