Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
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In a collaborative project between the artist Lindsay Sekulowicz and Kew’s Science team, new artworks join objects from Kew’s Economic Botany collection.
The display focuses on the collections of botanist and explorer Richard Spruce in his bicentenary year, in an exploration of material, function and meaning, cultural knowledge and scientific study.
The exhibition forms a portrait of the Brazilian Amazon as it existed at a specific point in time, with a new understanding of the relationships between people and the natural world.
One of the most extraordinary Victorian naturalists, Richard Spruce spent 15 years exploring the South American rainforests. His intrepid journey took him through Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Guyana and Ecuador collecting plant specimens.
Spruce recorded plant uses as he travelled, including gums, resins, drugs, narcotics, stimulants, foods, fibres, oil, dyes and timbers; trying to botanically determine their sources. He provided science with some of the first extensive botanical knowledge of Hevea rubber. He also recorded the customs and traditions of the different communities he met, making him an early ethnographer in the Amazon and Andes.
Kew's Economic Botany Collection contains an extraordinary range of artefacts that demonstrate some of the vital uses of plants. For example, as food and drink, medicines and poisons, clothing and ornament, fuels, papers, toys and musical instruments.
The collection includes around 100,000 objects, and is still growing, with about 2,000 specimens being added each year. All plant uses and most parts of the world are represented.