Collections Management

The Economic Botany Collection is kept in a purpose-built store fitted with compactor units. The specimens are subdivided into groups: the main sequence, large specimens, timbers, archaeological specimens, fossils and miscellaneous. Within each group specimens are arranged on shelves by family, genus and species.

Following an outbreak of biscuit beetles the store is maintained at a temperature of 12 degrees centigrade; this has ended the infestation. Temperature and relative humidity are monitored by data loggers; insects by insect traps.

Banks Building Collection Store - Wood Collection

Banks Building Collection Store - Wood Collection

Conservation of specimens is carried out by students at the Textile Conservation Centre and Camberwell School of Art, and by consultants prior to loans. Most specimens are in good condition and we focus on preventive conservation, through environmental monitoring and through reboxing of inappropriately housed specimens. We can call on Library and Herbarium staff for specialist advice.

The comprehensive documentation for Collection policy and practice is modelled on that required for museum Accreditation.

Data Standards

We use the following data standards for cataloguing:

Plant names Vascular plants and Families for family and genus names, and various printed and online checklists for specific epiphets

Authors of plant names IPNI Authors

Geography TDWG World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions

Uses TDWG Economic Botany Data Collection Standard


Since 2004 the Economic Botany Collection has worked with the Missouri Botanic Garden to promote CEEB, Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany (CEEB) Working Group. This project has entered a new stage following discussions at the Society for Economic Botany meeting in Chicago, 2007. At present (2007) data is being collected for an online directory of such collections.

Curators are asked to participate in the Survey of Economic Botany/Ethnobotany Collections by reading this letter (Word file) and filling in and emailing Excel files one and two from the Missouri Botanical Garden.

We are always keen to hear from curators of similar collections, and to assist with advice or behind-the-scenes tours.

Development and curation of this type of collection forms a part of the Diploma Course in Herbarium Techniques offered by Kew, most recently (2007) in Trinidad.

Museum loans

Loans to other museums allow us to reach wider and larger audiences. We do every thing we can to facilitate loans to suitable venues, including often sharing packaging and couriering with other London-based lenders. There are minimum requirements for security and environmental control which limit loans to certain types of venue.

Recent loans include tapa cloth to the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich; a model indigo factory to the Whitworth Art Gallery’s touring exhibit; Amazonian artefacts to the Margaret Mee exhibition touring the United States; a Dominician Duho to Liverpool’s International museum of Slavery; many New Zealand artefacts to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Whitby; botanical jewellery to the Natural History Museum, London.