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Michael Barnes

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Research Project

Historic Garden Survival: Strategically Growing Human, Funding, Physical Site, and Organizational Resources.

To discover how a public historic garden can ensure its longevity through prioritizing strategic decisions and actions to meet critical needs, I explored relevant research in the fields of cultural landscape preservation, strategic management, organizational ecology, and resource-dependency theory. Four gardens served as case studies: The Fells of Newbury in New Hampshire; Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, New Jersey; Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey; and Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island. I collected data from internal organizational documents, site visitations, and informal interviews. Additionally, I conducted a comparative analysis, utilizing the results from an online survey completed by the four case study gardens and ten comparable public gardens with historic landscape features. This project is intended as a practical guide for managers of public gardens with historic significance and integrity. The results illustrate how they can increase their organizatins’ longevity and probability of survival by making investments in their human capital, financial capital, site, and organizational partnerships, in that order.


The rolling farmland and vast forests of Michael Clay Barnes’s home
in Pauline, S.C., fostered his commitment to a plant-centered career. As
a novice horticulturist, he studied ornamental plants and landscape
construction at Spartanburg Technical College. His work with their
campus arboretum generated an enthusiasm for growing plants and building
public gardens. Michael earned two associate’s degrees from Spartanburg
Tech—one in horticulture and the second in business management and
marketing—while supporting himself as carpenter.

A combination of Michael’s travels to gardens in Japan and an
internship with The Morris Arboretum led to his passion for historic
gardens. Both experiences convinced him that landscape preservation is a
stewardship duty his generation owes to future generations. Following
his internship, he embraced a family tradition by attending Clemson
University. Michael financed his education by working as a student
gardener for the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and as a trial garden
technician at the Musser Research Farm. Besides earning a bachelor’s
degree in horticulture, he actively volunteered with university clubs
and state professional associations.

Michael’s appreciation for the spirit of volunteerism grew
tremendously from friendships he developed as a Pinewood Estate gardener
at the Historic Bok Sanctuary. Daily, Bok’s army of volunteers shared
their wealth of worldly knowledge while listening intently to Michael’s
horticultural lessons and maintenance instructions. These volunteers
showed Michael how much can be accomplished at a public garden when
landscape restoration is integrated with volunteer appreciation; they
continue to inspire his career development.

Michael’s education and work experiences convinced him that he could
achieve a career in public garden management. As an MPS student Michael
plans to focus his studies on volunteer development for historic
landscape restoration and preservation projects.

View Michael's thesis (561.51 KB)


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Michael is the Greenhouse Supervisor for the Duke University Biology Department.