• The Mobile Museum Economic botany in circulation
    Cornish, C., Driver, F., Nesbitt, M., Wilkey, B.

    ‘Economic botany’ was widely understood as a distinct subject in the period 1850-1950, filling its own museums worldwide, as well as galleries in civic or industrial museums. Such collections of useful plants (e.g. fibres, rubber, medicines, woods) have often since been subsumed into wider collections of natural history or world cultures. Researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London, are embarking on a three year AHRC-funded project to map the circulation of economic botany specimens in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. The history of museum collections is dominated by accounts of acquisitions; here we focus a much less studied aspect, dispersals. We seek to map the mobility of such ‘biocultural’ objects through networks of acquisition and exchange, nationally and internationally, throwing new light on such themes as the uses of Kew objects in school classrooms and anthropology museums. An important aim of the project is to reinterpret and suggest new uses for specimens that are often have a problematic status in current natural history museums.

    Keywords: dispersal, skills, knowledge sharing, circulation, economic botany, botany