SYNTHESYS ethnobiology workshop

Figure 1: In the stores, lies a sweet shop! (but best not to eat too many!)

Figure 1: In the stores is like being in a sweet shop for would be curators! (but best not to eat too many!)

Last week I enjoyed a great training session in curating ethnobiological collections at Kew Gardens.  Ethnobiology encompasses many organic materials used by people both in the past and now.  Gina’s blog gives a good outline of what an ethnobiology collection encompasses.  The funding for this was provided by SYNTHESYS, who promote exchanges of research expertise across Europe. As a result the course attracted participants from museums all across Europe keen to improve their knowledge of ethnobiological collections (or biocultural collections as Jan Salick Senior Curator, Missouri Botanical Garden catchily referred to them).

Figure 2: A shield and Gina, who kindly allowed me to use her photos in this post!

Figure 2: A shield (more on this later) and Gina, who kindly allowed me to use her photos in this post!

The course was run by Mark Nesbitt who is the curator of the Economic Botany Collection at Kew.  He was ably assisted by Luba Dovgan Nurse who is a textile conservator who’s worked with the Kew collection, and Caroline Cornish who recently completed her PhD on the Kew collection and is now undertaking work on a new acquisition of ‘Materia Medica’ material.

Figure 3: This sheild is made of basket and is purely ceremonial (an Amazonian wife-raiding ritual to be precise!).  The shield is presented with photos and information outside the box showing what it is and also a photo of the underside to avoid unecessary movment.

Figure 3: This sheild is made of basket and is purely ceremonial (an Amazonian wife-raiding ritual to be precise!). The shield is presented with photos and information outside the box showing what it is and also a photo of the underside to avoid unecessary movment.

Figure 4: Mark was foolish enough to entrust me with its removal and repositioning!

Figure 4: Mark was foolish enough to entrust me with its removal and repositioning!

Mark talked to us about curating ethnobiological specimens en general, whilst Luba gave us instruction on conservation techniques and IPM in relation to these collections.  Luba’s blog gives some idea about the work she’s been doing with ethnobiological collections in relation to indigenous groups; particularly a Maori cape made from the leaves of the mountain daisy.  We also completed a ‘packing exercise’ with constructive feedback given by Mark and Luba.

Figure 2: We got to practice packing priceless medieval material such as these Christams decorations.

Figure 5: We got to practice packing priceless medieval material such as these Christams decorations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two days, particularly the tour around the collection and the herbarium at Kew.  We were free to input our own expertise throughout the event, and it was also a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and make some new ones!

Figure 5: There's a funny story in relation to these still poisonous spears, collected by Richard Spruce, (as was the shield).  Basically, curator gets stabbed by it in New York, rings for medical assistance, person answering the phone says "You're in luck, the specialist in these collections is in New York"  Guess what?  It was him! (Gina tells it much better than I!)

Figure 6: There’s a funny story in relation to these still poisonous spears, collected by Richard Spruce, (as was the shield). Basically, curator gets stabbed by it in New York, rings for medical assistance, person answering the phone says “You’re in luck, the specialist in these collections is in New York” Guess what? It was him! (Gina tells it much better than I!)

Figure 7: The happy delegates!

Figure 7: The happy delegates!

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About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
This entry was posted in Trainee's diary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to SYNTHESYS ethnobiology workshop

  1. Pingback: Additional material for participants of ‘Curation of ethnobiology collections’ course (SYNTHESYS/KEW) | Luba Dovgan Nurse

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