5 May 2012

Kew's collections online

Apparatus for making & taking Niopo snuff, collected Cataracts of Maypures, Venezuela, by Richard Spruce, c. 1850
The Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens opened in 1847 with the aim of showing uses of plants around the world. Its 85,000 specimens include both raw materials and ethnographic artefacts. In April 2012 the collection database was placed online at: http://apps.kew.org/ecbot/search

The main search box covers all text in the database and works well for botanical names, collector surnames, and countries. The advanced search box allows more powerful searches using standardised terms for geography, use and plant part. In general, ethnic groups are not consistently mentioned by name, and are best searched for by geography.

For free-text fields, including collector/donor name, data cleaning is in progress; no attempt has been made to  proof-read all the notes, which include original spellings transcribed in the 1980s from object documentation. About 2000 specimens have photographs online.

Most specimens have extensive documentation, held in Kew's Archives, now partly digitised (http://plants.jstor.org/search?t=2021) and catalogued (http://www.calmview.eu/kew/calmview/).

Please do browse your interests on the database, and feel free to contact Mark Nesbitt, Curator, Economic Botany with any queries.

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