Beasts, Botanicals and the British Empire: Natural history drawings at the RAMM
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A Lecture from the Exeter University History Department on botanical drawings

We are delighted to invite you to the first annual Exeter University History Department/Friends of RAMM Annual Lecture. This annual lecture will build on the longstanding partnership between the Department and the Museum, enabling the History Department to share their expertise on RAMM’s collections both with Friends and with the wider public. We are hugely grateful to Professor Nandini Chatterjee for giving the inaugural lecture.

Join Professor Nandini Chatterjee and Holly Morgenroth, natural sciences curator at RAMM, in exploring an exquisite collection of nature-themed prints and watercolours produced by Indian artists in the early days of the British Empire in India. These drawings record British experience of new environments, and cross-cultural efforts at capturing new knowledge, through collaboration that was unequal but creative.

The most important cluster of the Indian natural history drawings at RAMM arrived with Reverend Richard Cresswell’s collection of British seaweeds and drawings of fungi in 1927. These drawings of plants and flowers with known medicinal properties point to British efforts to understand and benefit from traditional Indian sciences. On the other hand, the drawings themselves, produced by a team of Indian artists who were clearly trying to adapt their techniques to suit a new set of patrons, show traces of older Indian artistic traditions, being shaped by the British requirements of scientific accuracy.

In this event, audience members will be able to see some of 88 works up close, many of which have not yet been on public display. They will learn about the highly specialist conservation treatment the works have received in order to bring them back to their original glory. Holly and Nandini will share their research on Cresswell’s drawings as well as new lines of inquiry in the wider RAMM collection. Finally, attendees will be invited to participate in a fun activity, exploring the medicinal uses of the plants in the drawings.

21 February 2024 2pm – 3.30pm

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