Kew's imperial archive: Cataloguing Economic Botany in the Miscellaneous Reports, 1841-1928

Lead Research Organisation: Roehampton University
Department Name: English and Creative Writing


To begin to understand the history of this collection I would first like to comb through the material in as much detail as possible, creating a preliminary database in which notes/tags/metadata and other information can be stored upon each volume. Following this, I would investigate the origins and provenance of the collection, to discover when, why and by whom the archive was formally established, and what, if anything, is missing. For example, there may be replies to letters sent from Kew but not necessarily the original queries. At this stage, it would also be interesting to consider how material was deemed 'worthy' of archiving: were all communications from the colonies of necessary significance or just some? And if so, who was making those distinctions, and why? The choice (or not) to archive certain material assists in the creation of 'official' narratives, especially in the conflict-ridden context of colonialism. Such complex questions can be informed by a wide range of critical theories. This initial process of familiarisation would benefit greatly from close partnership with the Assistant Archivist, who could offer valuable insight into the scope of the project.


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