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Sharing Stories, Sharing collections: Valuing Biodiversity in Wales

Image of Poppy Nicol
Poppy Nicol, Cardiff University

A collaboration between the Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE), Cardiff University (CU) and Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum of Wales (AC-NMW), this placement addresses the Valuing Nature Programme second research goal: improving understanding of the role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in human health and well-being. The placement investigates how the Economic Botany Collection at National Museum Cardiff can add value to public understanding of biodiversity and contribute to the AC-NMW well-being duty (Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (WBFGA), 2015.

During this placement Poppy Nicol investigated how the Economic Botany Collection has the potential to value to public understanding of biodiversity and contribute to the Museum’s well-being duty (WBFGA 2015), through public consultation with members of the public in South Wales (including young people, gardeners, ecologists, teachers, artists, craftspeople and chefs). Participants were introduced to the Collection and invited to contribute to the Collections Strategy and an emerging framework of value. Poppy also discussed the Collections Strategy with external stakeholders (including representatives from higher education, public health, community growing, industry and a number of freelance artists).

Drawing upon the findings of the consultations, the placement report highlights a number of ways in which the AC-NMW EBC can be developed (in terms of acquisition, display and associated activities) to improve the role of the Collection in supporting valuing and understanding of biodiversity and well-being.

Along with further integrating the Well Being Future Generations Act Goals into the Collections Strategy, a critical next step for the Collection is digitisation of the EBC and development of a Digital Strategy. There is further opportunity for development of an intergenerational learning programme; exploration of research-led Curation opportunities and collaboration with other public institutions with Economic Botany Collections and Biocultural Collections (including museums botanic gardens and universities).

Current collaboration with the Mobile Museum Project, an AHRC collaboration between Royal Holloway, University of London; Royal Botanic Garden, Kew and other partners is also offering interesting insight into some of the accessed material in the AC-NMW Collection. In May, Heather Pardoe (Principal Curator, Botany) and Poppy were invited to attend The Mobile Museum: Economic Botany in circulation workshop at Kew. This workshop highlighted the benefit of investigating the biographies of objects through mapping the distributions and flows of both accessed and deaccessed material.

Mark Nesbitt (Kew) and Luciana Martins (Birkbeck) presented on the innovative visual methodological approaches of their work with the Tucano peoples of the northwest Amazonian region of Brazil and Colombia as they explored connections with the nineteenth century Collector Richard Spruce and material held within the Kew Collection through object biographies and interviews facilitated between the Tucano peoples. Caroline Cornish (Royal Holloway/Kew) and Traude Gavin (independent) provided an interesting insight into the complexities of object biographies as they are cut up and circulated as sections or parts through their talk on Iban textiles and networks of exchange. Participation in this network is leading to further investigation of some of the forgotten stories held within the AC-NMW Collection.

We are looking forward to welcoming the 2018 Valuing Nature Conference at the National Museum Cardiff 13-14 November. To find out more and register visit the conference website.

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