Botany in British India

Lead Research Organisation: British Library The
Department Name: Director of Scholarship and Collections

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Empire and the Environmental Heritage of India 
Description Antonia Moon created a facsimile panel exhibition on the natural and built environment of India during the time of the British Empire, using the South Asian collections of the British Library. Botany was one of the six subject-panels featured. The exhibition opened at Museum of Natural History, Mysore, India in October 2016 and is still showing there. We hope to transfer the exhibition to Cochin later this year. This was achieved in collaboration with the National Museums of Natural History, India, and with the University of Sussex, as part of an AHRC-funded network led by the University of Sussex ,"Botanical and Meteorological History of The Indian Ocean World". 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The exhibition and accompanying conference attracted interest from the general public in Mysore, with press coverage and a large number of visitors. The Natural History Museums of India are particularly keen to raise awareness of environmental matters among young people and this exhibition takes its place alongside the other temporary exhibitions at the museum which are used in school-group teaching. As a result of the exhibition, the British Library hosted a fact-finding visit from Dr Anindita Saha, a museum-studies student, to learn more about the Library's outreach programmes. 
URL http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mysuru/2-day-meet-sheds-light-on-heritage/articleshow/547285...
 
Description The overall aim of the project was to supplement and to extend the sources on the history of botanical science in British India which are becoming freely available online. The specific proposal was to digitise the main sources in the India Office Records relating to botanical enquiry between 1780 and 1850, creating new and detailed catalogue entries for them, and mounting the images on the British Library's digitised manuscripts web-site, http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts.
The goal was to digitise 120 files. In the event, 136 files were digitised (8318 images) and are now available on the web-site. They are also listed on a separate web page at http://bit.ly/RbQ54c Each file has been either catalogued for the first time or re-catalogued in depth, to include information about key plants, people, places, and events. Additionally, the catalogue records were submitted to the heritage portal Europeana. This portal brings together digitised material across Europe: our material in this context greatly increases its visibility to users outside the UK. The Library's digitised manuscripts web-site is extremely popular (1,127,419 total page views from 102,286 unique browsers in 2013), and the records have been well promoted on British Library and external blogs. India Office Records staff have also publicised the records through talks in South Asia and the UK to a variety of audiences (archivists, interested public, academics, civil servants).
A further aim was to host an international study day at the British Library to promote the records and to build upon the Library's partnerships with other institutions working in this field. The event was held on 7 December 2012, directly after a two-day international conference hosted by the University of Sussex 'Collaborative research on the meteorological and botanical history of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1900'. Many delegates attended both events. A full report of the day is at https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=report-on-study-day-7-12-12.pdf&site=253 The day's purpose was to uncover relevant archival sources in the UK and South Asia and to find out how accessible these were. This was amply achieved, with several new sources being identified and information on access being widely shared in the discussions. A list of sources was subsequently sent to the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH), University of Sussex. This has served as the foundation for the Centre's 'road map' of archival sources for the environmental history of the Indian Ocean world, which is currently in development.
The British Library continues to work with the University of Sussex and (through its memorandum of understanding with the Government of India) with Indian institutions, to develop proposals to digitise material in the field of environmental studies. In the short term, the Library has received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to catalogue the India Office medical archives online, the overlap between botanical and medical sources being highlighted by the work of this project.
Exploitation Route The British Library's website attracts a wide non-academic audience, which can use the freely-available images and catalogue information creatively and innovatively. By promoting these particular records through popular, non-specialist blogs, we help a wider public to appreciate the importance of South Asia for the history of botany, agriculture, forestry, climate, and medicine.
Through visits, talks and informal contacts, we have raised awareness of these records in South Asia. Recent visitors who have viewed the online resource have included civil servants from Pakistan and journalists from India and Pakistan. By maintaining our links with policy-makers and opinion-formers, we hope that the resources will help to inform current debate on environmental matters.
Through our links with UK government organisations such as the Meteorological Office (MO), we have raised awareness of the records as a source for climate studies. Some of the hard data that we have uncovered could be contributed to data-modelling projects being undertaken by the MO.
Links to our resources from the web-sites of cultural institutions, such as the India Museum in Kolkata, will help to bring the records to a wider public in India.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indiaofficerecords/botanymat.html
 
Description By making a significant number of records relating to colonial botany available online, the project has added to a corpus of material on the environmental history of South Asia that is slowly being identified and made accessible. Knowledge of past environmental reshaping and of responses to it is a pre-requisite to addressing the current challenges posed by environmental change globally. In collaboration with our long-standing partners (Centre for World Environmental History at the University of Sussex and Meteorological Office in Exeter), we are developing a road map of sources for the environmental and climate history of the Indian Ocean and are working to raise awareness of them. Already the collections have been noted by opinion formers, such as journalists from India and Pakistan, and civil servants in the UK and South Asia. As well as being used by academic historians, these collections have been consulted by scientists (botanists working at botanic gardens in the UK and India). Cultural institutions in India and the UK, such as the National Museum of India and the Natural History Museum, have either used or plan to use our sources in exhibitions and outreach activities, to raise awareness of environmental history among the wider public, including schoolchildren. The Botany project has also provided a stimulus for researchers to study other valuable, but under-examined, documents: for example, poems in South languages about cultivation practices. Collectively, these sources are filling in the gaps about how people experienced and lived with environmental change in South Asia. Through the British Library's 'Art and Science' days, the sources have also been studied by creative artists.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description India Office Medical Archives
Amount £41,583 (GBP)
Funding ID 103483/Z/14/Z 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 10/2015
 
Description Research Resources in Medical History
Amount £98,784 (GBP)
Funding ID 200531/Z/16/Z 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 01/2018
 
Title Transkribus (Handwriting recognition software) 
Description Transkribus is an open-source software for the automated recognition, transcription, indexing and enrichment of handwritten archival documents. The British Library has worked with Transkribus to establish a ground-truth for the corpus of Botany in British India materials: the Library's first venture into this field. About 700 pages of transcriptions have been produced so far. A complete set of digital images from 'Botany in British India' has been supplied to Transkribus; these are available to subscribers (free subscription) to view and to transcribe. The transcriptions carried out so far are being held in readiness for mounting on the Library's new Universal Viewer, which will enable readers seamlessly to find the items in the catalogue, to view the associated images, and to read the associated transcriptions. The transcriptions are also publicly available on the Library's own BL-Labs site. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The corpus contributes towards the refinement of the Transkribus tool. Transkribus is being used in the READ (Reading and Enhancing Archival Documents) project, an e-infrastructure project funded by the EC which combines research, services and network building. The project is focused on making archival material more accessible through the development of cutting-edge technologies. 
 
Description Botany in British India study day 
Organisation University of Sussex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution An international study day held to launch the Botany in British India project, hosted by the British Library. This event was held in conjunction with a University of Sussex AHRC-network international conference 'Collaborative Research on the meteorological and botanical history of the Indian Ocean'. The two events were designed to be complementary in terms of content and speakers. 25 delegates attended the study day from South Asia and the UK, representing academia, learned societies, botanical gardens, and government institutions.
Collaborator Contribution Worked with the Centre for Environmental History at the University of Sussex over several months to design complementary programmes for our two events. Sussex contributed time, expertise and academic contacts in UK and India.
Impact The partnership with Sussex University continues to develop. Antonia Moon has attended several networking events relating to Environmental History hosted by the university, updating delegates on the Botany in British India resource. In 2013 Antonia Moon and Penny Brook gave a lecture at JNU University, New Delhi, on sources for climate in the India Office medical records, as part of a conference 'Botanical and Meteorological History of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1900' organised by Sussex and JNU. In 2016 Antonia Moon curated a facsimile exhibition on colonial science for the Museum of Natural History, Mysore, as part of Sussex's AHRC-funded network on the botanical and meteorological history of the Indian Ocean world. She gave papers at conferences organised by Sussex in Kolkata and Mysore, and continues to play an active part in the network.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Transkribus 
Organisation University of Innsbruck
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Complete set of digitised images from Botany in British India supplied to Transkribus, a project to develop a handwriting recognition tool, with a 'ground truth' of 200 transcribed pages.
Collaborator Contribution Transkribus has extended the ground truth to 700 pages and the results have fed into the tool's development. The set of images will also be used in related competitions. Transkribus is at the forefront of the field of digital handwriting recognition and, as far as we know, the Botany images are the only materials in its corpus derived from administrative archives. The tool is used by the READ project (Reading and Enhancing Archival Documents), an e-infrastructure project funded by the EC which combines research, services and network building. READ is focussed on making archive material more accessible through the development of cutting-edge technologies.
Impact Transcriptions of c700 pages. Based on this pilot, British Library staff are investigating the possibility of applying Transkribus to other collections in the Library.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Blog post on Royal Asiatic Society web-site 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The William Jones Collection of Drawings at the Royal Asiatic Society: follow-up blog to paper presented by Kathy Lazenbatt at Botany in British India Study Day which generated enquiries to Royal Asiatic Society

A little-known resource at the Royal Asiatic Society brought to light by the Botany in British India study day
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://royalasiaticsociety.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/William%20Jones
 
Description Blog postings on AHRC 'Commodity Histories' website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Blog posts as follows:



'Catalogue of the edible vegetable products of India' at

http://www.commodityhistories.org/resources/primary-sources/catalogue-edible-vegetable-productions-india-1810



'India rubber trees' at

http://www.commodityhistories.org/resources/primary-sources/investigation-india-rubber-trees-brazil-1877

Blog posts support the informal collaboration between the India Office Records at the British Library and the AHRC-funded 'Commodity Histories' project at the Open University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.commodityhistories.org/resources/primary-sources/catalogue-edible-vegetable-productions-i...
 
Description Blog postings on British Library's 'Untold Lives' blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog posts as follows:
Overview of project at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2012/07/botany-in-british-india.html
'Gardening as therapy' at
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2013/05/gardening-as-therapy.html
'Convicts and ploughs' at
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2013/02/convicts-and-ploughs.html
'Roxburgh discovers the breadfruit tree in India' at
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2012/10/roxburgh-discovers-the-bread-fruit-tree-in-india.html
'Dr Griffith's report on Caoutchouc (rubber tree)' at
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2012/08/dr-griffiths-report-on-caoutchouc-rubber-tree.html
'Cultivator or Inventor?' at http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/2013/12/cultivator-or-inventor.html

Blog posts to publicise the digitised resource and particularly to draw attention to the information on commodities (bread-fruit, rubber, cinchona) contained in the records. Generated written and verbal enquiries to India Office Records and invitation to write blog for Commodity Histories website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Lecture to Royal Asiatic Society, Mumbai, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Promoted the resource as part of a lecture about the digitisation of the India Office Records. Talk led to lively discussion and follow-up enquiries.

Several members of the Royal Asiatic Society in Mumbai have subsequently contacted us, both by e-mail and in person, with questions about the records.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012