Our presenter at this session of Talking Things will be Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith (School of History):
Social History and the Herbarium: Deciphering dried botanical specimens
This informal discussion will examine the interpretive possibilities and problems offered by botanical specimens stored within herbaria (scientific collections of dried plants). As scientific objects, the specimens were preserved with as little contextual information as possible, beyond the elements deemed key for scientific purposes. So, what possibilities, if any, do such materials offer social history? Using examples of specimens stored at the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh that relate to Indian Ocean history, this talk will explore the methodological issues involved in using these objects as sources for writing 18th- and 19th-century social and cultural history.
(Note, due to the fragility of herbarium specimens, we will base our discussion on powerpoint images rather than the objects themselves).