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Bob Cook papers


This collection documents Bob Cook's (1946- ) work as Director of the Arnold Arboretum from 1989-2009. The Director's papers reflect a wide range of administrative functions including strategic planning, project management, fundraising, and community relations.


  • 1989-

General Physical Description note

(14 cartons)

Terms of Access

This collection, excluding Box 1 (restricted), is open for research. Researchers seeking to examine archival materials are strongly encouraged to make an appointment. The Director, or an office of origin, may place restrictions on the use of some or all of its records. The extent and length of the restriction will be determined by the Director, office of origin, and the Archivist and will be enforced equally for all researchers.

Terms of Use

The copyright is held by The President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University. The copyright on some materials in the collection may be held by the original author or the author's heirs or assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Archives prior to publishing any quotations or images from materials in this collection.

Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.


14 linear feet

This collection documents Bob Cook's (1946- ) work as Director of the Arnold Arboretum from 1989-2009. The Director's papers reflect a wide range of administrative functions including strategic planning, project management, fundraising, and community relations. The bulk of the collection is correspondence, but many memos, proposals, agreements, and reports are also included as well as some photographs and newspaper clippings.

Biographical note

I retired in 2009 as director of the Arnold Arboretum and Arnold Professor. As an undergraduate I studied the diversity of North American birds, went to graduate school to become an ornithologist, and switched half way through to plants. Following my graduate degree, I taught plant ecology at Harvard for eight years and conducted research on the demography of wild populations of violets. After a stint as program director at the National Science Foundation, I became director of the botanic gardens and arboretum at Cornell University where I also taught plant ecology for six years. From there I returned to Harvard to direct the Arnold Arboretum for twenty-one years. My interest in birds and plants continues.

Source: Bob Cook

Arrangement note

Box 1 contains restricted material. Boxes 2-7 contain documents arranged (by Bob Cook and his assistant Helen Shea) alphabetically by subject. Boxes 8-12 contain correspondence arranged alphabetically by author's last name. Boxes 13-14 contain miscellany (see processing note).

Other Finding Aids note

Detailed finding aid created by Bob Cook available. Contact Archivist.

Related Archival Materials note

See also Bob Cook's archived email. Some content may be restricted - contact Archivist.

Processing Information note

This collection was arranged by Bob Cook, 2012, who includes the following processing note:

For most of my directorship, I worked without an administrative assistant. With the advent of the internet and email in the early nineties, a full-time person managing my paperwork, now greatly reduced, seemed superfluous. Much correspondence, and many documents, were becoming electronic and were electronically transmitted without assistance by a second person. The remaining paperwork was handled in three ways: 1) letters snail-mailed were copied and filed (though usually not any inclusions) by a part-time (10% or so) individual with other primary responsibilities; 2) documents were delegated to appropriate staff for their files; 3) select documents deemed of future importance or of continuing working need were saved as piles on my desk or table. All other paper was recycled. This is not a successful recipe for creating organized documentation of the life of a directorship. Much, hopefully, has been preserved in the electronic archive which I will tackle next.

When I assumed the directorship in 1989, I inherited an administrative assistant, Helen Shea, from my predecessor, Peter Ashton. Helen organized all of my paper along traditional lines for about two years; and in this archive, this material constitutes boxes 1-11. Helen retired/left around 1992, and I did not replace her. With my part-time 10% assistant, I filed correspondence and selected other documents in these boxes 1-11 files, apparently up until 2003 as described in 1) above. I do not know why correspondence after 2003 was not treated this way, but it may be in unprocessed Box 13. Box 12 appears to represent a cleaning of accumulated piles from my office on an unknown date before my retirement at the end of 2009. Box 13 contains miscellaneous files which I will explain in a note at its beginning. Box 14 represents material accumulated by Sheila Connor in her office and added to these archives on the day she retired, 4/30/12, the day of this introduction’s typing and electronic move from Box 12 to the beginning of this aid. - Bob Cook, April 30, 2012

Finding aid prepared by Liz Francis
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Arnold Arboretum Archives Repository

The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library is a specialized collection devoted to the study of temperate woody plants. We collect works on botany, horticulture, floras, urban forestry and taxonomy. The library contains more than 25,000 volumes and 40,000 photographs, and includes an archive that both documents the Arboretum's history and is a repository for 19th, 20th, and 21st century horticultural and botanical collections.

125 Arborway
Jamaica Plain MA 02130 USA