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).
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.
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.
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!