Archives

Most specimens in the Economic Botany Collection are very well documented, but information is distributed in different places. This page gives a checklist of key sources:

Economic Botany Collection databaseComputer database of all specimens in the collection store and People+Plants display. Compiled at the time of transfer of the specimens from the old Kew museums to storage in the mid 1980s; at this time an accession number was allocated to each specimen. A very useful finding aid, though in need of some work on data consistency. For technical reasons the database is only available within Kew, but a compact version is searchable by botanical name atePIC. Common synonyms should be searched as well as accepted names.

Specimen label(s)The specimen may be accompanied by the old printed label from the Kew Museums (usually repeating information given in the Museum Entry Book), and by all manner of documents including the original collection notes, letters and printed matter. Most of this material has been transcribed into the Economic Botany Collection database.

Museum Entry BooksA continuous run since 1847, covering all specimens except for those first received in 1847, from Sir William Hooker’s collection. A running number (EBN) is allocated to eachgroupof specimens received in a year (e.g. 23.1853). If the EBN is not listed on the database, the entry can be found using the donor name (the Entry Books are indexed) or date. The Entry Book usually gives a short summary of the donation, including the name and address of the donor, date of donation, and country of origin and concise details of the specimens.

Kew ArchivesOnce the date and donor are known, it is time to move to Kew’sArchives. These are not fully catalogued, but four main sources are available:

  • Miscellaneous ReportsThese are bound volumes arranged by country. Letters and pamphlets relating to material from a specific country are often bound together in these volumes. A list of these volumes can be downloaded as aPDF file.
  • Director’s CorrespondenceSeries from 1847 to 1960s, covering most scientific correspondence in and out of Kew. Card index.
  • Personal filesSome runs of files for specific individuals. Many of these are listed at theNational Register of Archives; see also the list forRichard Spruce.
  • Registry filesThese are recent files (1960s - current day) and include some museum files.

See theArchives pagesfor more finding aids, including downloadble guides to

Collection filesThe office of the Economic Botany Collection holds files relating to some recent documentation projects, comprising photocopies of archive and printed material.

Printed sourcesThese should not be neglected, and are increasingly easy to search using resources such as Kew’sLibrary CatalogueandGoogle Books. See also ourlist of articlesrelating to the Collection. The Museum guidebooks (1855-1930) give brief details of displays. Text changes little between editions. TheDictionary of National BiographyandWho was Whocover many donors to the Collection and are available online at Kew and through many local libraries.

PhotographsHistoric photographs of Kew (including the Museums) are held on the Kew Picture Index, a CD library housed in the Library. This is not searchable online. The Kew Museums had many 19th century photographs on display; this important collection has not been catalogued, but is available for consultation in Kew’s Library. It is arranged by botanical name. Some photographs from this collection feature on thePlant Cultures website.