Research project highlighted at the Natural History Museum

Posted on 03/06/2013

Royal Holloway post-doctoral fellow, Caroline Cornish, will be taking part in a live event at the Natural History Museum on Friday, July 12 at 2.30 pm.  Caroline, who has recently completed a three-month fellowship funded by the AHRC’s Cultural Engagement fund, will be interviewed as part of the Museum’s Nature Live series.  She will be talking about her work on the shared history of economic botany between Kew and the Natural History Museum which has formed a strand of her post-doctoral research project.  Along with images of historical economic botany displays at Kew and the Natural History Museum, Caroline will also be showing some of the objects once in those displays and talking about the famous explorers, scientists and political figures who contributed them.

Economic botany was something of a nineteenth-century phenomenon’, said Caroline.  ‘Botanists saw opportunities for government funding if they tailored their research to the needs of the ever-growing British Empire.  It has been traditionally held that economic botany was Kew’s domain whilst the Natural History Museum concerned itself primarily with plant taxonomy and distribution.  However, such boundaries rarely exist in practice, and I felt sure that there must have been some cross-over between the two.’  The fellowship afforded Caroline access to curators and scientists at both institutions, leading to interesting insights and the ‘discovery’ of objects which have escaped traditional museum records, and have often survived due to the triumph of individual interests over institutional strategies.  Her research findings have surprised and intrigued the project partners at both Kew and the NHM.

Nature Live is a weekly event held in the hi-tech surroundings of the Museum’s Attenborough Studio.  Scientists, artists and researchers chat about their work with a professional interviewer.  In the intimate atmosphere that is created in the Studio, audience members feel more engaged than in some traditional lecture venues, and more confident to ask questions and satisfy their curiosity.  The events are free and open to all visitors, and no booking is required.

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