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Wallich and Indian Natural History: Collection Dispersal and the Cultivation of Knowledge

This international, interdisciplinary conference will be held from the 6th-7th December, 2011, at the Natural History Museum (6th) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (7th).

This conference focuses on the general theme of South Asian natural history collections with a special emphasis on the collections of the Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a major figure in the history and development of botany in the nineteenth century. As superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden (1817-1846), Wallich undertook botanical expeditions, described new plant species, amassed a large herbarium, collected thousands of plant specimens and commissioned local artists to draw beautiful botanical watercolours. His work has thus been influential in South Asian Natural History research.

This conference will explore the challenges associated with exploiting such collections and the interesting opportunities they provide for interdisciplinary research. In particular, the conference will consider the experience of the recent “Wallich and Indian Natural History” project as an interesting exemplar (a collaboration with the British Library and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and funded by the World Collections Programme).

Major South Asian natural history collections from the 18th and 19th century are now dispersed across institutions in South Asia, Europe and beyond. Thus, the conference will be hosted by the Natural History Museum, London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in partnership with the British Library. This conference plays an integral part in the World Collections Programme’s funded project “Wallich and Indian Natural History”. A full programme and travel information will be available on the Centre for Arts and Humanities (Natural History Museum) website, www.nhm.ac.uk/cahr, by the 30th September, 2011.

The definition of ‘South Asia’, in this call for papers, refers to the wide geographical region, as opposed to the Indian subcontinent alone.

Day One, 6th December

The first day of the conference will be held at the Natural History Museum, and structured by three speaker sessions. The themes for these sessions are:

1.South Asian Natural History and Collections
2.Dispersal and Movement of South Asian Collections
3.Collection Exploitation and Digitisation
Day Two, 7th December

The second day will be devoted to an opportunity to view and discuss Wallich related material at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

We welcome papers that address the following themes:

1) South Asian Natural History and Collections

•The life and expeditions of Nathaniel Wallich
•Early 19th century development of Indian botanical gardens
•Preservation and conservation of collections
•South Asian natural history drawings as a research resource
2) Dispersal and Movement of South Asian Collections

•The geographic movement of collections from South Asia
•The impact of dispersal on research
•Imperialism and the East India Company
•Pictorial records of British India
3) Collection Exploitation and Digitisation

•The digital humanities: challenges and opportunities
•Digital archiving and its development
•Modernising collection classifications
•The impact of digitising natural history collections
A preference will be given to papers with a focus on the Indian natural history collections. International submissions are welcome.

Travel bursaries are available to speakers only. If you would like to attend the conference as a delegate, please visit our website and follow the links to our online ticketing system which will be made available by the 30th September, 2011.


David Arnold | talks
Bodhisattva Kar | talks
Sangeeta Rajbhandary | talks
Krishna Shrestha | talks
Mark Watson | talks
Sandip Hazareesingh | talks
Caroline Cornish | talks
Kapil Raj | talks
Henry Noltie | talks
Antonia Moon | talks
Charlie Jarvis | talks
Timothy Utteridge | talks
Clare Drinkell | talks
Ranee Prakash | talks
Julie Harvey | talks


Date and Time:

6 December 2011 at 10:00 am


Full Day



Natural History Museum, London
Cromwell Road

Show map

Organised by:

Centre for Arts and Humanities Research
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Available from:


Additional Information:

For more information, including speaker abstracts and biographies, please visit our official registration website: http://wallich.eventbrite.com

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