Development of Biocultural Collections


We have formed a consortium to serve, promote and strengthen Biocultural Collections (BC).  Beginning in 2001, individual curators and institutional representatives began to organize Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany within and among many societies and institutions.  These meetings have explored many topics of concern to BC, to identify and discuss our common needs and goals. 
  • First Annual BC meeting, Bishop Museum, Hawai’i 2001. 
The report from this first meeting summarizes results (Salick 2001), “Including everything from abaca to zucchini, botanical and ethnographic Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany are found around the world.  These collections consist of specimens, products (medicine, food, fiber, oil, latex, etc.), and cultural artifacts (clothing, baskets, weaponry, tools, etc.) pertaining to plants and people.  Research of many ethno- and economic botanists depends heavily on these collections. Yet these collections have no standards of curation, nor any organization to facilitate collaboration among scientists.  Our 1st Curatorial Workshop at the SEB meetings in Hawai’i was a first step to address our needs.  With an initial participation of nearly 30 botanists and anthropologists from 5 countries, we enumerated the kinds of collections (herbaria, cultural artifacts, seeds, paleoethnobotany, DNA, archives, maps, etc.), the components of those collections (databases, libraries, websites, images, plants, artifacts, etc.), the purposes of collections (research, education, conservation, development, etc.), and the activities within collections (acquisition, curation, research, support, exchange, disposal, etc.).  We began defining common needs beginning with economic botany database standards being developed by the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for Plant Sciences (Cook 1995, Farr and Russell 1992).  Our long-term goals are to identify curators and collections, identify common needs, and prepare collaborative proposals for funding ethno-and economic botany collections and related activities.”
 
  • Etnobiologia, Open Forum on BC, Naples, Italy 2001. 
Shortly after, Dr. Hew Prendergast, Centre for Economic Botany, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew organized a similar meeting at Etnobiologia with similar goals and initial results.  This meeting highlighted European Union (EU) programmes to help build ethnobotany research and networking, databasing of European ethnobotanical data, ethno-botanical/-ecological research on Europe, ethnobotany teaching in Europe, and establishment of a European chapter of the Society for Economic Botany.
 
  • 1st Curatorial Workshop for Ethno- and Economic Botany Collections, Bishop Museum, Hawai’i, 2001
With an initial participation of 20-odd botanists and anthropologists from 5 countries, we enumerated the kinds of collections (herbaria, cultural artifacts, seeds, paleoethnobotany, DNA, archives, maps, etc.), the components of those collections (databases, libraries, websites, images, plants, artifacts, etc.), the purposes of collections (research, education, conservation, development, etc.), and the activities within collections (acquisition, curation, research, support, exchange, disposal, etc.). We began defining common needs. We recognized the economic botany database standards being addressed by the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for Plant Sciences (TDWG, see Cook 1995 ).
Our longterm goals are to identify curators and collections, identify common needs, and prepare collaborative proposals for funding ethno- and economic botany collections around the world. To this end we invite curators of ethno- and economic botany collections to contact Jan Salick (below) with your name, institution, kind of collection, components of collection, activities within the collection, and needs. We especially invite you to attend the 2nd Curatorial Workshop for Ethno- and Economic Botany at the SEB meetings in New York, June 2002.
At this NSF sponsored workshop 35 ethnobiologists from 12 countries and an array of subdisciplines discussed priorities in research, methodology, analyses, education, and funding for our rapidly expanding field. Concerning BC, the workshop recommends: “Collections for Ethno- and Economic Biology.”  Natural history collections for ethno- and economic biology research are found throughout the world at museums, botanical gardens, herbaria, universities and other research institutions.  However, little is known about where the collections are, of what they consist, who uses them, or how they are used.  It is recommended that these collections join together to support, define, access, coordinate, and integrate these international collections.”  (Ethnobiology Working Group 2004) http://www.econbot.org/pdf/NSF_brochure.pdf

  • Second Annual BC meeting, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 2002.
“Dr. Paul Beelitz, Director of Collections and Archives, Division of Anthropology hosted the meeting of BC, demonstrating a wide range of relevant collections and curatorial information. This second meeting focused on uniting dispersed BC to apply for NSF Collections Funding and on defining joint curatorial needs.   All concurred that needs include, first and foremost, an index of BC (similar to Index Herbariorum) followed by standardization of large, disparate collections, curation and management practices, appraisal, databases, DNA preservation, digital images, internet access, repatriation and property rights, library cataloguing, and so forth. Collection enhancement, computerization, research, and curatorial workshops will be included in our proposal. All were very clear that Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany fulfill all of NSF requirements for exceptional taxonomic breadth, value for scientific research and resource management, urgency of  needs, and the integration of education and outreach. The broader impacts of BC for conservation, development, health and education are key to application and prospects for funding. Since NSF requires size and breadth of collections, the large US BC collections (i.e., MO, NYBG, F) will take Co-PI status, with international collaborators (i.e., Kew, Leiden, PAT, etc) and myriad of smaller collections participating.”  (Salick 2002)
 
  • Natural Science Collections Alliance, Annual Meeting 2002, Washington DC, special session on BC. 
Drs Hew Prendergast and Jan Salick jointly presented a special session on Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany at NSCA.  The organization champions BC and the goals of organizing, curating, and strengthening these collections (see NSCA letter of support).  Member collections recognize that BC are often ignored and poorly curated within their own collections.
 
  • Third Annual BC meeting, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, 2003
highlighted living collections at the museum.  The NSF BC collections proposal was the major theme of discussion.
 
  • Fourth Annual BC meeting, Kew, England, 2004. 
SEB met with ISE in Canterbury England with BC convening immediately beforehand at Kew to highlight international BC.
 
  • Fifth Annual BC meeting, 2005,
in conjunction with SEB in Chiang Mai, Thailand highlighting market Ethnobotany with lively discussions on Intellectual Property.
 
  • Sixth Annual BC meeting, 2007,
at the Field Museum in Chicago highlighted public displays of Economic Botany collections (well exhibited at the Field) and on-line databases.
 
  • Seventh Annual BC meeting, 2008,
with the Society of Ethnobiology meetings at Fayetteville Arkansas highlighting palaeobotany collections and curation, well demonstrated at the University of Arkansas.
  
  • IUBS Committee on Biology & Traditional Knowledge, Missouri Botanical Garden, 2009

  • Eight Annual BC meeting at the International Society of Ethnobiology, Victoria, British Columbia, 2010  

in conjunction with Botany 2011, Healing the Planet  http://www.2011.botanyconference.org/  in St. Louis, MO 

in conjunction with the 13th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology in Montpellier, France