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Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook

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The first major curation manual for biocultural collections, filling a longstanding and real need.

Editors: Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, Mark Nesbitt. 254 pages. 253x190mm. 100+ colour photographs. Paperback, ISBN 9781842464984, Kew Publishing in association with Missouri Botanical Garden Press 2014.

The first major curation manual for biocultural collections, filling a longstanding and real need. Chapters cover curation of material collections including herbarium, ethnozoological, paleo- ethnobotanical , xylarium, ethnographic, ethnobiological products, DNA, horticultural, and seed collections; the curation of related reference collections including databases, books and archives, photographs and images, linguistic and audio information, and ethnographic information.

The authors use real-life case studies and a carefully-chosen bibliography, with many references to online resources. This book demonstrates the central importance of such collections for research, and draws on a wide range of expertise and case studies to show how they should be cared for. Throughout there is a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of collection users, and for ethical and equitable engagement with source communities.


Winner Postgraduate Textbook Prize at the Royal Society of Biology book awards, 2015

The judges said: A stunningly visual and engaging book with a crisp, clear and example rich style. It captivates the reader with its breadth of topics and range of examples, case studies and photographs.

Finalist, Mary W. Klinger Book Award, Society for Economic Botany  

Bradley Bennett, Chair of the Award Committee, described the book as: an essential reference for researchers working with biocultural collections...  I especially appreciated the breadth of coverage in that category.


Media Reviews:

I recommend this book to anyone working in a museum that holds either natural history (especially zoology or botany), archaeological, or anthropological collections. It offers a fresh way of thinking about potential implications and uses for such collections, in a more holistic way than is often achieved in multidisciplinary museums. Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum

I would recommend this book to a museum that holds ethnographic collections, and a bonus if it also holds natural history collections. The book can be used by both areas to help safeguard the collections for the future. It is a Handbook which can be used if you are undertaking a specific collections project or if you updating your database. Clearly laid out with nice images the chapters make available the most up to date information on that area.

The book provides a really useful guide to caring for a diverse range of collections many of which a natural history curator cares for too. As there is a lot of cross over, the book can also develop a stronger understanding between departments about the objects and specimens they care for; a better understanding of other curators collections will lead to greater working relationships. Jan Freedman, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

I think Curating Biocultural Collections A HANDBOOK is a very useful reference resource for managing a diverse array of collections and seeking guidance on curation and care of these collections. It will soon become one of those ‘classic’ reference books for many of us working in botanic gardens. Lucy Sutherland, The Botanic Gardener

This handbook on the curation of biocultural collections is admirable... a valuable asset to museum curators, educators, and professionals who deal with the collection of biocultural specimens or who prepare and submit specimens for curation. Pamela J. McBride, Museum Anthropology


Jan Salick is Senior Curator at Missouri Botanical Garden and has helped lead ethnobotany to become a quantitative science, international in scope and active in global policy. Katie Konchar is a biologist and botanist with a M.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mark Nesbitt is curator of the Economic Botany Collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and his research interests centre on botany and empire in the nineteenth century, and on the history and current day management of botanical collections.


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