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Xerces Society and Edward Gorey


My mum (as we called her; she had British roots) was an avid Edward Gorey fan. From as early as I can remember, she read Gorey books and instilled a love for him in each of us children. I still remember The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with its sordid tales of how child after child met his or her demise, illustrated by delightfully dark artwork that was also somewhat sweet in nature. Another staple in our household was Mystery on PBS television. My favorite part was Edward Gorey’s wonderful illustrations during the opening sequence.

Jumping ahead, after years of working on conservation projects (everything from old growth protection to wolves), I came to the Xerces Society in 2000. As a small and fairly obscure organization, the last thing I expected was for the Society to get a letter telling us that Edward Gorey had included us in his will.

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I was almost as delighted with the prospect that Edward Gorey would honor us this way as in the funding we received. The initial grant from the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust was $24,000 and since then we have received $5,000 each year for a total of $66,500.

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Looking back now, that funding was quite important to the small organization that Xerces was. With only a few employees and a grand vision of what we wanted to achieve, and a very large mission—there are almost a million insects and other invertebrates under Xerces charge!—the initial pot of money was critical to being able to continue our work. This was in the day when Xerces was so small that, as the executive director, I was not sure if we would be able to make payroll every month. The yearly donation also gave us some longer term security, allowing us to plan and use the money wisely. It helped us with all aspects of our work from building our pollinator conservation program in its early years, as well as being able to respond quickly to unexpected incidents, like a plan to spray pesticides on millions of acres of public lands in Idaho to control native grasshoppers.

edward gorey

edward goreyXerces is much larger now and we have had many successes since I opened that first letter. With 25 employees and multiple contractors, we protect pollinators and other imperiled invertebrates globally. In the last ten years our work has led to the creation and restoration of over 120,000 acres of wildflower habitat for bees on farms and we have worked to protect a whole array of animals and the unique habitats they need to survive. We have citizen science programs that span the entire continent to better understand dragonflies and their migration from Canada to Mexico and to find and protect our most imperiled pollinators, native bumble bees. And, yes, with early funding from the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust we were able to limit the spraying in Idaho to only a few thousand acres instead of millions.

Although I no longer worry monthly about making payroll for my staff, this funding is still important. It allows us to remain flexible and react to issues as they arise. Also, at a personal level, every check we receive from the Edward Gorey Trust is special as it brings back memories of reading books with my mum.

Scott Black - Xerces Societyedward gorey

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Updates From Our Blog

In the Fall of 2019 the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust allowed the House to borrow several boxes of Gorey’s notebooks, journals, folders, and binders of material for use in this year’s exhibit. In pouring over the contents (a nice way to spend a winter) of what would become our 2020 exhibit He wrote it all down Zealously, it quickly became apparent that the List was a defining component. A curator’s lament: the amount of material was overwhelming—and the handwriting challenging—and so the final assembly, whittled down to fit in the House’s galleries, was selected for variety and some semblance of narrative flow.