The Brain Scoop: The Economic Botanical Collection
Before filming this episode I had no idea that there was a section of botany devoted to that which was economic, those resources which have been managed by humans. This isn’t your typical herbarium with pressed and dried plants on sheets - these specimens and artifacts could be just as much at home in an anthropology collection. The cross disciplinary potential of many of these specimens helped me to consider more deeply how we assign arbitrary categorizations on not only items, but disciplines themselves.
I made a comment yesterday that I fail to understand when someone’s biggest criticism of me is that I’m not a scientist, I’m a journalist, because I’ve never taken journalism either - and what’s the difference between the two if the method of both practices is fundamentally research? I feel the same way about economic botany: it’s botany, it’s anthropology, it’s history, it’s geography, it’s art. It takes the neat little boxes we like to sort our interests into, and smashes them.
The Garden is actually lucky enough to be home to the Institute of Economic Botany, where our staff can concentrate on studying the intersection of humans and plants. It’s fascinating stuff, and of great importance as climate change continues to affect the way plants are grown and managed around the world. ~AR