There is a knowledge gap in research on decolonising museum collections and practices, including in biocultural collections, which contain plant and animal specimens, artefacts and documents. This comes despite original collection practices, which are likely still contained in the curatorial framework, and silences within curation that ignore contentious histories.
My research seeks to understand pathways to decolonising biocultural collections, working in collaboration with the Natural Sciences department at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales. The Economic Botany collection here comprises over 5,500 specimens of plant parts and products with societal value including food products, medicinal plants and dye plants. This research in particular explores how a decolonising lens can be used to enhance understanding of the South Asian medicinal plant specimens in the Economy Botany collection.
I aim to investigate the contextual histories of the collection, explore documentation systems and taxonomies used, and review the effects of this knowledge framework on understandings of the collection. Further, to explore co-curation techniques to highlight alternative perspectives, sharing interpretive power, authority and visibility through participatory research with descendant communities, which will allow alternative, multivocal narratives to curate the collection.