The botany of baskets

Dr Mark Nesbitt and Ruth Stungo (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew )          

The botany of baskets  

We are working on a catalogue of the c. 500 basketry artefacts at Kew. By the nature of Kew’s long history and wide contacts, this forms a diverse sample of world basketry. Our catalogue is structured around c. 200 key artefacts, organised by region and collector, and also focusing on the interelationships of construction technique with basketry function, and plant raw materials.

Prompted by the recent basketry conservation conference at Kew, we have standardised key data for 499 basketry artefacts in a spreadsheet, and carried out statistical investigations of global patterns in plant use in basketry. We found consistent patterning at the level of plant class and family, with strong correlation to morphological characteristics of the plants. Some counter-intuitive patterns point up the significance of human intervention through intensive processing of plant materials. We are submitting this work to the issue of Journal of the Institute of Conservation resulting from this conference, including a series of case studies of individual baskets that exemplify wider trends.


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