The Illustrations and Artefact Collections are a world-renowned resource for botanical illustration forming an exceptional visual record for species of plants and fungi. Additional works on paper, portraits, photographs, and three-dimensional objects chart the history of botany and the enduring role played by Kew.
Kew's Illustrations and Artefact Collections comprise over 200,000 prints and drawings, assembled over the last 200 years and ranging in date from the 18th century to the present day.
The Illustrations Collection is a working resource, accessible and available for use by Kew staff and visiting researchers as a reference tool alongside the preserved herbarium specimens. It is arranged systematically by plant family in the same way as the Herbarium Collection. The two collections are analogous and type illustrations occasionally act as the original source for the name and description of a plant species in the absence of a type specimen. As well as documenting the visual characteristics of plants and fungi, the illustrations have historical value in terms of provenance, context and in relation to specific plant hunters. The collection has a global reach; recording plants from around the world with the authorship of a wide range of nationalities.
Special collections are ordered by artist and origin and include work by the great 18th century masters of botanical illustration such as Georg Dionysius Ehret and Franz and Ferdinand Bauer, through to Walter Hood Fitch in the 19th century, and the work of contemporary illustrators contributing to publications such as Curtis's Botanical Magazine and Kew Bulletin. Works range in media and dimension from pocket sized sketchbooks to large format pieces such as those found in the Edouard Morren Collection of bromeliad paintings (measuring up to three metres in width). In addition, the collection contains a large number of portraits of eminent scientists, botanical artists and explorers, spanning several centuries to the current day, and a collection of photographs which record plants, their uses, and the history of Kew.
Artefacts range from botanical medals, scientific equipment, and furniture, to a travelling chair used by the 18th century naturalist Sir Joseph Banks.
The Illustrations and Artefact Collections are made available to the public in the Marianne North Gallery, through an ongoing schedule of exhibitions in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery and through loans to external institutions. They can also be consulted in the Library, Art & Archives Reading Room.