Refiguring the Indian Botanical Archive: Seminar at Wellcome Collection

November 20, 2018, Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

Please join us on Tuesday 20 November for the next seminar in our new Exploring Research series at Wellcome Collection.

We’re delighted to host Dr Sita Reddy (Independent Researcher), for a paper entitled ‘Refiguring the Indian Botanical Archive’.


In this paper, I will suggest that archival remembering, in the case of colonial archives, goes hand in hand with archival forgetting. My focus are East India Company-era medico-botanical archives – historically one of the world’s great ‘contact zones’ – which feature multi-genre collections (art, herbaria, manuscripts) dispersed across libraries, and unacknowledged artists or makers in favour of their corporate commissioners and surgeon-botanists.  This paper will trace the visual genealogy of Indian medico-botanical texts at the Wellcome Collection to address some of these gaps. Focusing on Hortus Indicus Malabaricus, the extraordinary 17th century herbal commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) from Malabar (present-day Kerala), it will show how Company archives construct but also bury colonial pasts just as they ignore indigenous communities, artists, plant collectors, physicians whose knowledge constitute these archives. It will reinsert the names of anonymous artists, thus expanding the category and chronology of what in the Indian context is known as Company School botanical art (Kampani kalam). And finally, it will touch on how digitization in the 21st century, even as it aims to preserve botanical pasts, leads to new dilemmas of access and ownership and new problems of bioprospecting and patent claims over medico-botanical knowledge in the global commons.

The seminar will take place in Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.

Doors open at 6pm prompt, the seminar will start at 6.15pm.

For more details see this website.

Posted: November 20, 2018