In addition to serving individual researchers and research projects, the Collection is also available to interested groups. Behind-the-scenes tours of the Collection store can be pre-booked for groups with special interests. These typically include university students (usually postgraduate) of biology or art, adult learners of crafts such as basketry or wood-carving, groups of volunteers from sister organisations, societies of historians or craftspeople, and academic conference excursions. Tours can be tailored to particular interests. The Collection store can house a maximum of 15 people, so larger groups will need to be divided. Tours are usually on weekdays, but can occasionally be organised on weekends for special occasions.
Work in the Collection offers excellent training in many aspects of ethnobotany, botany, ethnography and collections management.
Student opportunities include undergraduate and postgraduate projects, and formal placements for museum studies and conservation students. Recent placements have included a paper conservator (Camberwell School of Art), museum studies and conservation students from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, many conservation projects by students at the Textile Conservation Centre, an undergraduate thesis on historic wheats (University of Reading), and an MA thesis on object biographies of ancient Egyptian specimens. Recent PhD students have worked on the Zambesi Expedition, the archaeology of resins, and our Canadian collections.
The Sustainable Uses Group has an active internship programme, hosting some 50 interns since 1999. Internships are unpaid and are (usually) not part of a formal academic course. They offer an opportunity to be fully immersed in the life of a large botanic garden, and to hone research skills.
Some interns join us before or after one of the Master’s degree courses Kew offers jointly with universities, such as the MSc in Ethnobotany at the University of Kent.
The Economic Botany Collection hosts an intern from the Canadian Museums Association for six months each year; this post is usually advertised in June and runs October-March.
The Plants+People exhibition is always open to visitors, and is ideal for school groups and for individuals generally interested in the Collection. It shows 500 choice objects.
The Schools Education group at Kew maintains a large handling collection of botanical artefacts, used in many of the sessions it offers. A wide range of specimens from the Collection is featured on Kew’s Plant Cultures website, which is aimed at a schools and public audience.