The Economic Botany Collection at Kew illustrates the extent of human use of plants around the world. The huge variety of objects ranges from artefacts made from plants, to raw plant materials, including a large collection of wood samples. Uses range from food, medicine and utensils, to social activities and clothing.
The collections build an important bridge between biological and cultural diversity, and are a valuable resource for the study of plant uses past, present and future. They are managed by the Biodiversity Department of the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives Directorate, in close collaboration with the Sustainable Uses Department of the Jodrell Laboratory.
Sir William Hooker, the first official Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, opened the Museum of Economic Botany in 1847. While the majority of the objects were acquired during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Collection continues to grow today and now holds over 85,000 specimens. These include present-day material as well as archaeological specimens and nineteenth century curiosities. Please explore some of our holdings.
The Plants+People exhibition in the renovated Museum No. 1 displays over 450 of these plant-based treasures.