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Natural History Museum, London, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew welcome you to our celebration "Wallich and Indian Natural History: Collection Dispersal and the Cultivation of Knowledge"
Tuesday, 6 December 2011 at 10:00 - Wednesday, 7 December 2011 at 17:00 (GMT)
London, United Kingdom
Please note that ticket sales will end on the 20th November, 2011.
Tickets must be pre-booked. Payment will not be accepted on the door.
This international, interdisciplinary conference will be held on the 6th and 7th December, 2011 at the Natural History Museum, London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on the general theme of South Asian natural history collections, with a special emphasis on those of the Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786–1854). Wallich is a major figure in the history and development of botany in the nineteenth century. As Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden between 1817 and 1846, he undertook botanical expeditions, described new plant species, collected thousands of plant specimens amassing a large herbarium, and commissioned local artists to draw beautiful botanical watercolours. His work has therefore been extremely influential in South Asian natural history research.
Major South Asian natural history collections from the 18th and 19th century are now dispersed across institutions in South Asia, Europe and beyond. This conference will explore the challenges associated with studying and exploiting such collections and the interesting opportunities they provide for interdisciplinary research. It forms an integral part of the World Collections Programme- funded project “Wallich and Indian Natural History”, the first inter-institutional endeavour of its kind between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the British Library and the Natural History Museum. In particular, this project has created an exciting new website (coming soon) which supports a virtual collection of the plant drawings, specimens and correspondence of Nathaniel Wallich.
In celebration of this project, a group of distinguished international speakers has been brought together to present papers covering a wide range of different disciplines. They will speak on the first day of the conference at the Natural History Museum. Day two, held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will provide a unique opportunity to see a wide range of Wallich and related materials (including original drawings and herbarium collections) behind the scenes at Kew. We welcome everyone interested in natural history, art history, botany, South Asian studies, social history, history of the British Empire, museum studies and digital humanities to join us for what we anticipate will be a very stimulating conference.
We regret we are unable to cater for special dietary requirements
10:00-10:20 Coffee and Registration in the Flett Theatre Foyer, Natural History Museum Main Building (Earth Galleries)
10:20-10:30 Welcome (TBC, NHM) in the Flett Theatre
10:30-10:40 Opening Remarks (Julie Harvey, CAHR Centre Manager, NHM)
10:40-12:10 Panel 1. Nathaniel Wallich: His Expeditions and Collections
Chair: Dr B. Venugopal, Director, National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi
Krishna K. Shrestha, Mark F. Watson
12:10-13:10 Buffet lunch in the Flett Theatre Foyer
13:10-14:40 Panel 2. Dispersal and Movement within the British Empire
Chair: Professor Felix Driver, Professor of Human Geography, Royal Holloway College, University of London
14:40-14:55 Tea and coffee in the Flett Theatre Foyer
14:55-16:25 Panel 3. The Wallich Project
Chair: Dr Vinita Damodaran, Senior Lecturer in South Asian History, University of Sussex
|Henry Noltie||Scottish Surgeons and Indian Botany: Dispersed Collections of Drawings and Specimens, a Case Study from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh|
Antonia Moon and Charlie Jarvis
|Wallich’s Papers at the British Library and Beyond|
|T.M.A. Utteridge, Clare Drinkell and Ranee Prakash||The Wallich Plant Illustrations in London: Identification and Dissemination|
16:25-16:45 Closing Remarks (Julie Harvey, CAHR Centre Manager, NHM)
16:45-17:30 Tea in the Flett Theatre Foyer
9:30–14:15 Delegates are offered free access to the Gardens from 9:30, when the Gardens open. To obtain free access you will need to show your conference badge to the staff at the entrance. Please use either the Victoria Gate or Main Gate entrances.
Please visit http://www.kew.org/ to help plan your time. We would recommend a visit to both the Marianne North Gallery, which was reopened earlier this year following a full restoration back to its original design, and also to the adjacent Shirley Sherwood Gallery which has an exhibition – Joseph Hooker – naturalist, traveller and more -marking the centenary of Hooker’s death.
14:15–14:30 Please assemble in the Reception of the Herbarium & Library Building, [Entrance on Kew Green]
14:30–17:00 Delegates will be formed into groups and each group will be taken through parts of both the original Herbarium Building and the latest extension which opened last year.
Kew’s Wallich related collections will be set out at four points around the building, where staff responsible for the collection will talk on the items on display and provide an opportunity for discussion.
Groups will have up to 30 minutes at each of the following four points:
Paintings & drawings/books
Manuscripts & Archives
Items from the Economic Botany Collection and Wood Samples
17:00–18:30 Conference Reception in Main Library Reading Room
Please note that we cannot offer a single pass for the 7th December.
Nathaniel Wallich and the Natural History of India
Abstract: Nathaniel Wallich occupies a critical place in the history of nineteenth-century botany and the colonial investigation of India’s natural history. Despite being Danish by birth, he became superintendent of the East India Company’s botanic garden in Calcutta in 1815 and for three decades was a central figure in the scientific establishment in India. Well-connected internationally, a leading collector and disseminator of botanical specimens and plant knowledge from South and Southeast Asia, Wallich’s career was also one of frustration and failure to achieve the lasting recognition his intellect, perseverance and opportunity seemingly deserved.
Biography: David Arnold has recently retired as Professor of Asian and Global History at the University of Warwick. He has written extensively on the history of science and medicine in British India, including the role of botany. He has considered the importance of Nathaniel Wallich in two works: The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800-1856 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006), and ‘Plant Capitalism and Company Science: The Indian Career of Nathaniel Wallich’, Modern Asian Studies, 45: 5, 2008, pp. 899-928.
Frontier, Collected: Nathaniel Wallich in the North-Eastern Frontier of British India
Abstract: This paper wishes to explore the tensions between the logic of scientific collection, the art of making a frontier and the culture of recording experiences through a critical reconsideration of Nathaniel Wallich’s famous travels across the north-eastern frontier of British India in the early eighteen thirties. At one level, this is an effort to complicate the easy collapse of science into colonialism, exploration into extraction, and experience into textual surface. At another, this paper also raises the question of limits and travels. How the commercial mandate of the Tea Committee circumscribed Wallich’s botanical investigations, how the imperative of state making was in turn constrained by the conflicting findings of Wallich and his colleagues in the Scientific Deputation, and how the physical experience of travelling in the frontier unsettled the limits of the textual archive that grew out of it: these are some of the questions that this paper addresses. I would like to particularly focus on Wallich’s pursuits of tea and rubber, the two commodities which eventually became the main exports from British Assam. In taking an issue with the standard approach to histories of colonial collections that routinely underplays the constitutive experience of travel in the production of scientific archives, my paper tries to raise a set of wider questions about the ethics and politics ofapproaching the archive that Wallich has left us. My sources consist of government documents, Tea Committee papers, Wallich’s journals and scientific essays.
Biography: Bodhisattva Kar is Fellow in History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Research Fellow at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam
Sangeeta Rajbhandary, Krishna K. Shrestha, and Mark F. Watson
Wallich and the first explorations of the Nepalese flora
Abstract: In western eyes Nepal remained an enigmatic terra incognita until the end of the 18th Century when a Chinese invasion gave the Honorable East India Company (EIC) the opportunity to send a mediating diplomatic mission to Kathmandu in 1793. William Kirkpatrick led this seven-week expedition, accompanied by surgeon-naturalist Adam Freer. Although no botanical collections are known from this expedition, Edinburgh-trained Freer would have taken notes and these probably formed the basis of discussions on medicinal plants in Kirkpatrick’s An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal (1811).
The signing of an Anglo-Gurkha trade treaty in 1801 provided a better opportunity for exploration and when Captain Knox took up the post of Resident in Kathmandu in 1802 he took with him Francis Buchanan, another surgeon-naturalist and Edinburgh alumnus. Buchanan (later Hamilton, and known botanically as Buchanan-Hamilton) made good use of his 14-month stay in Nepal, recording over 1100 species, collecting some 1500 herbarium specimens (mostly now at LINN-SMITH and BM), preparing over 100 coloured drawings (LINN) and sending over 100 batches of seed and living material back to William Roxburgh in Calcutta. In 1810 and 1813/14 Buchanan was stationed close to the Nepalese frontier and took the opportunity to send local collectors over the boarder to gather economically important plants. Buchanan acquired specimens of a further 100 Nepalese species this way, forming part of his Bengal Survey collections of more than 2000 specimens which Nathaniel Wallich distributed as part of the EIC Herbarium. Buchanan retained a duplicate set for himself that is now at E.
After the Anglo-Gurkha war in 1816, at Buchanan's request, Wallich arranged for the new British Resident in Kathmandu, the Hon. Edward Gardner, to send back living plants and herbarium specimens to Wallich in Calcutta. Gardner and his team collected many plants between 1817-1820, and Wallich sent all the specimens to London (now at LINN-SMITH and BM). Wallich either sent seeds back to Britain (some to Buchanan and RBG Edinburgh) or tried to grow them in the Botanical Garden in Calcutta. Wallich himself visited Nepal in 1820-21, extending the exploration of the Nepalese flora beyond the Kathmandu Valley by employing pilgrims to collect plants up to the alpine zone around Gossainthan (Gossainkund). Wallich amassed more than 1700 herbarium specimens from Nepal and distributed them as part of the EIC Herbarium (K, K-W, BM, E, CAL, G-DC, etc.) in which 1834 plants are from Nepal.
In the following years many hundreds of new species were described from these early collections in publications such as Wallich’s Tentamen florae Napalensis Illustratae (1824-26), Plantae Asiaticae Rariores (1830-32) and A Numerical List of dried specimens of Plants in the East India Company (1828-49). David Don’s monumental work Prodromus Florae Nepalensis (1825) was based on the collections of Buchanan and Gardner (wrongly attributed to Wallich) and alone accounted for over 800 species. These early collections, particularly those in the Wallich distribution, are very important for the taxonomic study of Nepalese plants, but they are unavailable to botanists in Nepal. To facilitate use of these collections, high quality digital images of the specimens in the UK and scattered around world are urgently needed.
Biography: Sangeeta Rajbhandary and Krishna Shrestha are plant taxonomists and senior lectures in the Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University. They have a long interest in the historical collections of western botanists in Nepal, including extended study visits to the Natural History Museum, and Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew. Mark Watson is also a plant taxonomist, and since 1991 has been based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. His expertise lies in Sino-Himalayan Floristics and he is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Flora of Nepal project. In recent years he has developed an interest on the often misunderstood historic collections that relate to Nepal, in particular those of Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and Edward Gardner.
Plants, power and productivity: the East India Company and cotton imperialism in early nineteenth-century western India.
Abstract: This paper will focus on the conquering East India Company’s use of power to transfer different varieties of cotton plants from various parts of the world and to seek to acclimatise them in western India in an effort to ‘improve’ indigenous cotton productivity and ‘modernise’ Indian agriculture. It will also examine local peasants’ responses to these attempts to change their accustomed cultivating and cropping practices.
The existing literature on ‘cotton imperialism’ has charted the ways in which capitalist transformation of the cotton textile industry in Britain and on the European continent in the nineteenth century led to European powers’ attempts to expand cotton production and trade in their globally scattered colonies, and the successes and failures of these attempts. However, there has been little detailed examination of the precise modalities and dimensions of colonial power deployed to secure cotton objectives and of the forms of resistance, both human and non-human, encountered. By focusing on the district of Dharwar in western India, scene of some of the most radical experiments, this paper will show how the cause of cotton improvement generated and mobilised new networks, technologies and ideologies of power including the East India Company’s evolving definition of its own mission of governance in India. Colonial ‘governmentality’ thus came to be fundamentally based on the will to improve and drew on a complex assemblage of power forms that included new modes of administration, changed legal structures and norms of land tenure, as well as the deployment of European botanical knowledge and technical expertise, and of meteorological observations and climate science. However, as this paper will show, colonial rule in the countryside was, in practice, characterised by significant internal contradictions; moreover, cotton cultivators experienced deteriorating livelihoods and proved refractory to improvement schemes, nor were the local climate and soil necessarily amenable to colonial cotton desires.
Biography: I am a lecturer in History at the Open University, having previously taught at Cardiff University, and the author of The Colonial City and the Challenge of Modernity (2007). I am a founder member of one of the main Research Centre in the Arts Faculty, the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies which focuses on extra-European histories and cultures. I am also Principal Investigator on a British Academy-funded research project, Commodities of Empire (2007-12) which is a collaboration with the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.
Circulating India: Kew, colonial forestry, and circuits of display
Abstract: The Museum of Economic Botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was the idea of the first director, William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), and opened in 1847; a second museum was added ten years later. With audiences including ‘the merchant, the manufacturer, the physician, the chemist, the druggist, the dyer, the carpenter and cabinet-maker, and artisans of every description’, the object was to instruct British industry on the wealth of plant resources available throughout the Empire. Woods formed a major component of the museum collections from inception and by 1863 a third museum, dedicated to colonial timbers, was opened in the former Orangery.
Whilst the museums no longer exist, the collections survive as the Economic Botany Collection and provide a rich resource for analysing the movement of collections from South Asia, during and prior to the existence of the Kew museums. Approximately 20,000 specimens of Indian woods are held which were transferred to Kew from EIC officers, the former India Museum, Indian botanic gardens, and numerous other institutions in the sub-continent. Many of the best-known names in imperial botany are represented in them, including Nathaniel Wallich, William Roxburgh, Joseph Hooker, Thomas Anderson, and Hugh Cleghorn.
In this paper, Kew’s Indian woods are considered in two contexts: firstly, the rise of Indian forestry; and secondly, the collection and circulation of Indian arts, manufactures, and natural history specimens in both colony and metropole, what Saloni Mathur refers to as ‘cosmopolitan circuits of exhibition and display’. I then trace the ‘circuits’ taken by selected groups of objects, identifying the human actors who collaborated in their mobilisation, considering their sites of display, and thus gaining a greater understanding of how the Kew museums contributed to the circulation of India.
What emerges is a decentralised view of the forms in which knowledge of India – objects, texts, images, people – circulated within India, between India and other colonies and sovereign states, and within the imperial metropole, in the nineteenth century. This approach inevitably calls into play the role played by indigenous Indians in the production and circulation of scientific knowledge of the subcontinent, and results in a re-inscription of indigenous agency into the narrative of circulating India.
Biography: Caroline Cornish is a third year PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London, and a holder of a Thomas Holloway Research Scholarship. Her research project – ‘Collecting and Curating Science in an Age of Empire’ – is focussed on the Kew Museums of Botany from 1847-1939 and is conducted in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In October she will undertake a research trip to India to examine historic sites of collecting and displaying economic botany in the sub-continent. She has previously worked in museums and collections at national and regional level.
Natural History Illustrations from south Asia in the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Library: Uses and Potentials
Abstract: Between July and September 2011, I had the honour of spending two and a half months as a resident research fellow at the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research of the Natural History Museum, London. This fellowship, which was the culmination of the "Wallich and Indian Natural History" project, was intended to review the South Asian natural history drawings, often executed by indigenous artists, held at the three recipients of the World Collections Programme grant for the Wallich project. These drawings and paintings number nearly 30,000 items in the three London institutions alone. In this talk, I shall focus on the highly enriching experience of working collectively with members of the staff at the NHM, where I spent most of my time, the working conditions and facilities, the nature of the collections, and above all, some of the directions and themes for future research using these vast, invaluable collections to throw new light on the global history of natural history, the historical anthropology of intercultural encounter and imperial and colonial history in general.
Biography: Kapil Raj is Directeur d'études (Research Professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He is attached to the Alexander Koyré Centre for the History of Science of which he is currently co-director. His research focuses on the construction of scientific knowledge through the circulation and encounter of South Asian and European specialised practitioners and their skills in the early modern and modern periods, the subject of his recent book, Relocating Modern Science (2007) and of a collective work entitled The Brokered World (2009). He is currently engaged in writing his next book on the urban and knowledge dynamics of Calcutta in the 18th century.
Scottish surgeons and Indian botany: dispersed collections of drawings and specimens, a case study from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Abstract: In the library of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a gigantic filing system known as the ‘Illustrations’ or ‘Cuttings’ Collection. This contained about 250, 000 herbarium sheets bearing visual representations of plants, ranging from newspaper cuttings to original drawings. Used as a taxonomic tool (to supplement herbarium specimens) the arrangement was purely taxonomic, with all related historical information on artists, patrons, original collections and provenance lost. Familiar with the collection from his Indian taxonomic studies, the author, in 1998, started to extract and reorganise a vast corpus of more or less entirely unknown drawings by Indian artists, as it was only by reconstituting the original collections that their history and significance could be reconstructed – in some ways analogous to making a natural classification to replace an artificial one based on the single ‘character’ of the name of the plant depicted. The largest part of the Indian material emerged once to have formed a diverse collection assembled by the pioneering Indian forest conservator H.F.C. Cleghorn (1820–1895) containing literally thousands of original drawings made from life, and tracings from botanical works, documenting his travels and researches, some used for teaching purposes at the Madras Medical College, and some relating to the Madras Exhibitions of the 1850s. But far more emerged: notably a collection of drawings made for Alexander Gibson (1800–1867), another pioneering forest conservator, relating both to his forest travels in Western India and the garden of the Bombay Presidency that he superintended at Dapuri. Of pre-eminent taxonomic importance were the drawings made by two Telugu artists, Rugiah and Govindoo, for the Madras surgeon Robert Wight (1796–1872). Major monographs on the Gibson and Wight collections have resulted. In this talk I will discuss how this research was undertaken, in order to rediscover the histories of these collections, and to re-establish links between the drawings with drawings in other collections, with related documentary sources, and with herbarium specimens, in Scotland, England (especially Kew, the Natural History Museum and the British Library) and India, together with field excursions to the sites where the work (in many ways a joint Indian-British enterprise) was originally created. The talk will also discuss the importance of the copying of drawings and the transmission of visual knowledge – in particular the role of Nathaniel Wallich in the creation of two sets of copies made from the pre-eminent Roxburgh Icones at Calcutta Botanic Garden. This will illuminate both positive and negative aspects of Wallich’s enigmatic character.
Biography: Henry Noltie has been based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh since 1986. With degrees both in botany and museum studies, his work has included taxonomy (specialising on monocots of the Sino-Himalayan region) and curating exhibitions relating to the RBGEs historical collections. For the last decade his work has revolved around the history of Indian botany, especially on the drawings made for Scottish East India Company surgeons by Indian artists.
Antonia Moon and Charlie Jarvis
Wallich’s papers at the British Library and beyond
Abstract: This paper introduces the 110 files of India Office Records now digitised for the Wallich project. Ranging from reports and travel accounts to letters and financial statements, these records are a major source of information on Wallich's career: a direct result of the insistence by the East India Company's directors that every action of its servants in India be fully reported back to London. We shall explain the administrative context of the documents, draw attention to some of the themes contained within them, and suggest possibilities for new research that their digitisation opens up. We shall briefly compare this collection to Wallich's surviving papers in Calcutta, and indicate further sources where relevant material might be found.
Antonia Moon is Lead Curator, India Office Records (post-1858) at the British Library. She has a particular interest in the archives of colonial science and has led the Library's contribution to the Wallich project.
Charlie Jarvis is a botanist working at the Natural History Museum in London. He has published extensively on the botanical binomial names published by Carl Linnaeus and the herbarium collections, books and manuscripts that contributed to Linnaeus' understanding of these numerous species. The biological collections of Hans Sloane are a current research interest. He is also scientific co-ordinator of the Museum's Centre for Arts and Humanities Research.
The Wallich plant illustrations in London: identification and dissemination.
Abstract: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Natural History Museum, London have extensive holdings of historic plant specimens and associated collections such as illustrations. Recently, both institutes identified several hundred Wallich unpublished illustrations in their collections that had never been properly named. This talk will discuss the project, particularly from a botanical science view and discuss the naming and origins of the illustrations (mostly from Wallich's trip in Nepal and others from the Calcutta gardens), and show some images of herbarium material that match the illustrations that have been scanned, databased and now be made online. In addition the use of the illustrations in publications will be briefly discussed.
Dr. Timothy Utteridge. SE Asia Regional Team, Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Tim is the Acting Head of the South-East Asia team at Kew with interests in several families in the region, especially the Icacinaceae and tropical Primulaceae. Tim was Kew's Wallich illustration project key staff member who identified the illustrations and attempted to match them to extant herbarium material. Tim has recently taken over the role of the curator of the East India Company Herbarium at Kew (often referred to as the Wallich collection).
Clare Drinkell. SE Asia Regional Team, Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Clare is an assistant botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with an interest in the tropical Primulaceae and Ebenaceae of South-East Asia. Clare was Kew's Wallich illustration project key staff member who databased and digitized those specimens associated with the illustrations.
Ranee Prakash. Curator-Flowering Plants, Department of Botany, The Natural History Museum.
Ranee is a curator at the Natural History Museum with a strong interest in the plants of the Indian subcontinent. Before moving to the Natural History Museum, Ranee was a member of the team at Kew that initiated and conducted a major digitization programme of the world's most important herbarium specimens - the type specimens. Ranee was the Natural History Museum's Wallich illustration project key staff member who identified and digitized those specimens associated with the illustrations.
 Hooker, W. J. 1855: 3, Museum of Economic Botany, or, A Popular Guide to the Useful and Remarkable Vegetable Products of the Museum of the Royal Gardens of Kew London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans
When & Where
Centre for Arts and Humanties Research at the Natural History Museum, London
The Centre for Arts and Humanities Research is supporting interdisciplinary research into the
- economic significance
of the archives, libraries and specimen collections of this world-class museum.
The centre is enabling and promoting research into the collection through partnerships with
- research councils
- major museums