Flora of Idaho and Washington

Photographs of plants from Northern Idaho and Washington, 1932-1938.

About The Collection

This collection contains the photographic prints and negatives taken by Thomas R. Ashlee and Geoffrey Coope. Ashlee was the University of Idaho florist, and Coope was a faculty member of the English Department.

Thomas R. Ashlee was born in England. His experience with the natural world started in his early years when his father worked as a property manager on a large estate. Later in life Ashlee studied at London’s Kew Gardens. He had been one of only forty-two students allowed to study there at one time.

When Ashlee came to the University of Idaho, he studied under Dr. F. B. Laney and he conducted a graduate study focusing on the local flora of Latah County. At some point he became the university’s florist, and worked within the College of Agriculture. He also worked as a florist for the U of I Agricultural Experimental Station. Ashlee published a booklet called “A Contribution to the Latah Flora of Idaho” in 1932. He also contributed to the American Gardeners’ Chronicle, and the Encyclopedia Dictionary of Horticulture.

Geoffrey Coope was also born an Englishman. It is unknown when he immigrated to the United States, but sometime before 1941 he was naturalized as an American citizen. Coope was first a member of the Oregon Agricultural College before coming to the University of Idaho to teach English. He was very active in the theater community on campus, and helped write plays such as “All Reasons Now Resigned” and “Sing, Singleton, Sing.” Coope was the photographer of seven of the University of Idaho President portraits (kept in PG 2, University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives). During his time at U of I, Ashlee continuously advocated for the cooperation between the liberal arts and science technology disciplines.

In 1933, Coope and Ashlee worked together to bring the natural world to the students. The two traveled around the local area, taking photographs and making notes about the plants they came across. Using the information and materials they collected, Coope and Ashlee sponsored an exhibit of Idaho wildflowers which was on display in the U of I Library. The display included photographic plates and informational captions detailing the specimens they had researched.

Somehow the physical materials within this collection had found themselves in the Royal BC Museum. After some years of communicating back and forth, the University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives chose to accept the materials. They were received in 2023, and processed and digitized soon after. The materials themselves consisted of glass negatives, film negatives, and printed photographs. The negatives and prints were all located in labeled envelopes. The labels included information like Latin names, date and times, locations, measurements, and even if it was a cloudy day. This type of information is crucial in understanding the environment in a historic way.


Thomas R. Ashlee and Geoffrey Coope collection of flora in Idaho and Washington, 1932-1938, PG 129, University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives.

Technical Credits - CollectionBuilder

This digital collection is built with CollectionBuilder, an open source framework for creating digital collection and exhibit websites that is developed by faculty librarians at the University of Idaho Library following the Lib-Static methodology.

Using the CollectionBuilder-CSV template and the static website generator Jekyll, this project creates an engaging interface to explore driven by metadata.

More Information Available

Technical Specifications
IMLS Support