The Seed Bank Project explores the importance of local ecologies by researching, and planting multi- generational seed banks that encourage a heightened awareness of ecological stewardship among local communities. I cast the seed banks from locally sourced granite rocks in porcelain; the forms are hollow with a double wall for insulation and a water-tight, air-tight screw-top, sealed in beeswax. They also are equipped with a chain and small “Indicator rock.” (See figures 1-3.) I chose to use rock forms to accentuate what I see as the dialogue between geologic and anthropocentric timescales, and for the practical reason that this would allow the banks to blend more easily into the natural environment.
The pilot-round of these banks, 25 in total, are currently being distributed around the world (locations have included Montana, central France, southern Brazil, northern Utah, central Arizona, Southern Louisiana and Vancouver, B.C. Canada, so far). I ask my collaborators to: 1) Find seeds of a plant that they have a personal or cultural connection to. These plants must be either indigenous or have a longstanding agricultural presence in the local environment (please, no GMO seeds!). 2) Fill the bank with the seeds. 3) Bury the bank near where the seeds were harvested, underneath the permafrost level, such that the small locator rock sits on the ground’s surface where it can be seen. The collaborators provide the GPS location, a photograph of the chosen plant, and a short synopsis of the plants cultural and ecological significance that I will include in the online database which is open to the public.
For the Seed Bank Project, I have been constructing seed storage containers that are completely autonomous from human maintenance; allowing them to transcend into the future, and carry sensitive cultural and ecological knowledge and material forward for future generations. The banks are designed to last well beyond my (and our) life span, using the thermal mass of the earth (and a double wall with air in between) to regulate it’s temperature, beeswax and a screw top system to keep the contents dry and dark. All the materials have been chosen for their ability to withstand time and environmental factors.
At the local scale, the seed banks indicate the cultural and ecological significance of a single plant (e.g.; huckleberry, Wild Sage, Agave, or Hopi Corn) and ignite a multi-generational dialogue among the families who plant them about the importance of environmental stewardship, and the cultural significance of ritual and storytelling. On a global level, I hope that they will become a network of markers, small monument to a specific moment in time. This moment is the apex of a civilization that has recognized that its actions, (or inactions) have brought it to a crisis point. Porcelain can last thousands of years, and it is my hope that, while this project begins with a small, intimate audience of collaborators, the physical evidence of the project can speak to a much wider audience in the near and far futures. We are entrusting future generations with the act of seed-saving, therefore my research and the documentation provided by each participant are publically available through an online database, which can be accessed through my website. If you follow the link below, you will find a sample instruction sheet, images of the seed banks, planting diagrams, and a partial list of the banks that have already been buried: www.rachaelmarnejones.com.
If your family, or organization would be interested in participating in the Seed Bank Project and burying a seed bank in your area with local seeds, please contact Rachael Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Seed Bank Collaborator” in the subject line. Thank you!