Considering the interplay between natural history and anthropology collecting, this panel builds on a re-emerging interest in Indigenous ecology and the value of ethnobotanical collections located in anthropology museums, situating itself within current debates on decolonising the museum.
Many anthropology museums contain collections often considered the domain of botanical gardens or natural history museums. Often termed 'orphan collections', they can be mobilised by anthropologists, zoologists and botanists. These collections often languish, as anthropology museums struggle with how to research and curate these collections. As objects, they reveal the limitations of rigid systems underpinning the classification of knowledge. In the last five to ten years, there has been an emerging and well-deserved recognition of the agency of Indigenous people in collecting and documenting anthropological, zoological and botanical material. Specifically, this scholarship has highlighted the existence of pre-colonial Indigenous systems of land management and zoological knowledge, as well as its influence on the development of European scientific knowledge. This panel builds on this re-emerging interest in Indigenous ecology and the limited scholarship on the value of these 'orphaned' collections located in anthropology museums, situating itself within current debates on decolonising the practice and method of museum work. We will discuss the interplay between natural history and ethnographic collecting and collections, with a focus on ethnobotanical collections in anthropology museums. We welcome papers that consider: the role of indigenous intermediaries/knowledge in the production of European scientific knowledge and/or collections of botany; ethnobotanical collections as a resource for indigenous peoples; the place of plants in non-botanical collections. We also invite proposals that explore the exchange of ideas between the botanical garden, the anthropology museum and indigenous communities as a means of exploring the purpose or resonance of these collections today.