I am an artist, can I use seeds from Kew's Millennium Seed Bank as subjects for my work?
Find out the answer to this question below.
If you are working for the Press
If you are an artist or photographer working for the Press, please contact Kew’s PR office (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance.
Seed-inspired sculpture "Genus Australis"
Sarah Parker-Eaton and Louise Hibbert used metals and wood to make items reflecting the beauty of Western Australia's indigenous flora.
If you are an independent artist
The many commitments of staff at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank mean that we have only a limited amount of time for direct collaboration with artists and providing seeds for art projects. However, we ourselves are constantly delighted and inspired by the enormous variety of form shown by seeds and fruits and we want to do as much as possible to give artists access to that diversity.
Using seed images for inspiration
You may use the images as inspiration for private artwork, but please remember, all of the images are the copyright of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and you are not permitted to use them for anything other than private study (which would include making pictures of the seeds for your own personal enjoyment). Please also see the Terms and Conditions of Use of Kew's website, which sets out the permitted uses of the images. You may not use the images as the basis for art which is used in any kind of commercial context, for example, which is included in a book or which is displayed in a public exhibition, unless you have agreed a specific collaboration with us in advance.
Moreover, we would not hold these seeds in our collection, nor be able to work on them, without the co-operation of our network of partners around the world. Please give appropriate acknowledgement in any presentation of your work, both of RBG Kew, and our partners in the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. The source of seed is given on each image.
The images in the gallery are a selection from a growing number of digital photographs of seeds, arising from studies on the collections by our Seed Morphologist, Wolfgang Stuppy and his team. These are published on this website, via our Seed Information Database. It is not particularly easy to browse the full set of images in SID (hence we have made the gallery), but follow the instructions at the end of this page.
Three books produced from a collaboration between Professor Rob Kesseler and our seed morphologist, Wolfgang Stuppy.
Come along to special events
In addition, once a year at 'The Big Draw' event, seeds are made available at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank for use by the public. This usually takes place in October. There may be other similar opportunities at other times during the year.
Other organisations of interest
Before approaching us about closer collaboration, please familiarise yourself with the procedures and requirements of organisations such as The Wellcome Trust, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, all of whom have supported ‘sci-art’ and/or ‘artist in residence’ projects in the past. We would need a similar level of preparation before we could consider any application, and preferably firm ideas on potential funding.
Examples of completed works
We have had a very successful collaboration with Prof. Rob Kesseler from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, which, to date, has led to the publication of three popular scientific books: "Seeds - Time Capsules of Life", “Fruit – Edible, Inedible, Incredible” and “The Bizarre and Incredible World of Plants”. Our palynologist colleague, Madeline Harley was also involved in the last of these. These books are innovative "Sci-Art-Adventures", as well as being illustrated popular-scientific natural histories of seeds, fruits and pollen, are based upon and woven around the Millennium Seed Bank Project, and thus promote both the artist's and our own work. More about these books
The artists and gardener Francoise Sergy has recently created a computer animation and web project featuring five common plants of the UK and the work of the Millennium Seed Bank, entitled Hop, Stock and Bent.
Sophie Munns was the 2010 Brisbane Botanic Gardens Artist-In-Residence at Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane. The residency focused on the extraordinary regional and global seed heritage - the critical work of seed conservation and the future of seeds - coinciding with the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Sophie visited the MSB in October 2011 and you can see her work on her weblog 'Homage to the Seed'.
Laura Hallen had a residency here at Kew. Her work has been on display in an exhibition at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum entitled 'Ex situ' .
Accessing Seed Information Database images
- Open this page - http://data/sid/sidsearch.html
- Tick the small tick-box towards the bottom of the page on the right, labelled 'Morphology'; don't enter anything in any other box.
Press 'Search' and SID will return a list of species for which we have recorded morphological data, including images - indicated by 'Morph' in pink type at the end of each record. This could be a bit slow, please be patient.
- To view the images for each, click on the link (blue-underlined) for each record and SID will return all the data for that species.
- Scroll down towards the bottom for the morphological data and at the botom of that section you will see the links to the images, with names like 'S-LS' (short for 'seed - longitudinal section'), for instance, indicating the image orientation.
- Click each of these in turn to download the images. These images are only at low resolution, primarily intended for screen display. If you need a particular image at higher resolution, please contact us.
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