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Economic Botany at Kew

 

The Museum of Economic Botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was originally established in 1847 as a public repository for 'all kinds of useful and curious Vegetable Products, which neither the living plants of the Garden nor the specimens in the Herbarium could exhibit'.

Reflecting Kew's global networks of science, empire and commerce, the collection expanded rapidly during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, playing an important role in the creation and dissemination of botanical knowledge.  

Today Kew's Economic Botany Collection consists of over 90,000 objects, housed in a purpose-built research store. The diversity of this collection makes it truly unique: for example, seeds of the Brassica nigra from Ethiopia are found alongside a cassava sieve made by the Ingarikó people of Amazonia, and walking-sticks produced in the City of London.

Transcending the purely botanical or the purely cultural, this is best described as a biocultural  collection, and it is of growing interest to researchers and scholars in a wide range of disciplines from ethnobotany to design history, as well as to diverse communities and museum curators worldwide.  

 

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