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Speaker: Dr William Milliken, Research Leader, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The biocultural objects and associated information collected by Richard Spruce in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1850s constitute a unique point of reference for the useful plants, ethnobotany, anthropology and environmental history of the region. This priceless collection, housed at RBG Kew and the British Museum, incorporates indigenous plant-based artefacts, samples of useful plant products, detailed archival notes on the use of plants by inhabitants of the Amazon, and accompanying herbarium voucher collections. These form part a larger body of 19th century material held in European collections, much of which has been poorly researched and is unavailable within Brazil. Such collections have huge potential as data for studies of Amazonian vegetation and ethnobotanical knowledge over the last 200 years, and provide a basis for analysis for future studies being conducted in Brazil.
The talk will explore the nature and context of these objects and data in the context of Richard Spruce’s remarkable explorations, and outline an emerging initiative to research, document and evaluate their value and significance in the context of past, present and future relationships between people and the Amazon forest.
Dr William Milliken is a Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His experience in the Brazilian Amazon, including ethnobotanical research with indigenous peoples and botanical exploration of remote areas, stretches back almost three decades. He is the author of several books on these subjects.