The Economic Botany Collection holds 83,000 objects. Although most specimens date to the period 1847-1930, some 500 specimens a year are added. All plant uses and most parts of the world are represented, with an emphasis on the former British Empire.

The Collection database can only be searched on Kew’s site, but summary data can be seen by searching ePIC by botanical name. The on-site database can be searched across a wide range of fields. Online guides to some categories of material are given below; our reading list also highlights strengths of the Collection.


The ground floor of Museum No. 1 opened to the public in 1998 as the Plants+People exhibition, with collections on display in a dozen of the original mahogany cabinets. The exhibition highlights the variety of useful plants around the world and celebrates people’s ingenuity and craft skills in using these riches.

Plants+People Exhibit

Plants+People Exhibit

Displaying 500 specimens from the Economic Botany Collection, the exhibition charts some of the vital uses of plants: as food and drink maintaining our health and well-being; their use for clothing and ornament; and as fuels, papers, toys and musical instruments.

An illustrated guidebook is available at the Victoria Gate bookshop and from Kew Books.