This is the first time the Economic Botany Collection, Kew collection will have been exhibited to the public in the City of London. The exhibition features historical items from dozens of countries and provides a dramatic contrast to the finest contemporary woodturning across the rest of the Wizardry in Wood exhibition.
Kew’s Economic Botany Collection illustrates the extent of human use of plants around the world. The huge variety of objects includes artefacts made from plants, as well as raw plant materials, such as wood samples. The collections build an important bridge between biological and cultural diversity, and are a valuable resource for the study of plant uses past, present and future.
The Economic Botany Collection, Kew was founded in 1847 by Sir William Hooker. It is one of the largest and most important collections of useful plants in the world.
The Collection includes over 35,000 timber specimens and perhaps 5,000 objects made of wood. The Wood Museum at Kew that was dedicated to these shut in the 1980s, so this is the first time that so much of the Collection has been shown for 30 years, and the first time any has been shown in the City of London.
The exhibit includes a recreation of a Victorian ‘timber trophy’, displaying some of the massive planks of wood that were sent to international exhibitions from around the world. Health and safety prohibits us from achieving the four story constructions of our precedessors, but the size, figuring and history of the 20+ large timbers on display are spectacular.
Over 200 wooden objects will also be on show, ranging in date from ancient Egypt to the current day, and in place from the Amazon to Sweden, Ethiopia to India. The focus of the Kew collection is on plants in daily life, so almost everything is useful – but also simply and beautifully made.
The Wizardry in Wood exhibition is a unique opportunity to see such a wide range of wooden objects. Exhibits will also show how Kew’s wood collections underpin its scientific work on conservation and use of forests. A small selection of the 200 exhibits is shown below.