The Colonial Origins of Botanical Gardens as Museum-Like Institutions

Laura Allaben Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Elise Edwards Butler University
A popular concentration within the disciplines of history and anthropology is post-colonial studies. Many scholars have devoted hours of painstaking research to unravel the lasting impacts of colonization on the structures and peoples of the world. A large and important part of the colonial system to consider in these studies are the institutions Western powers put into place in their colonies and at home. Aside from government, military, and economic institutions colonizing powers utilized academic institutions as well. These academic institutions, such as museums, were used to not only legitimize their colonization, but also as another form of extracting wealth from other parts of the world. The conception of the museum is colonial in origin, an issue that many older museums and museum-like institutions have had to grapple with in the modern era. One type of institution in particular that needs to be considered in this discussion are botanical gardens. Many might not consider these gardens museums at first glance, however in their origins and lasting impacts today they resemble a museum. Thus, I argue in their conception and institutional structure, botanical gardens are museum-like institutions due to their colonial origins, their collection practices, and the challenges they face today as lasting colonial institutions. Botanical gardens are a type of museum because of the patterns of their institutional structure, colonial origins, and collection practices. Today, museums and botanical gardens alike face the similar challenges of decolonization in how they curate their collections, explore different programming options, and market themselves.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

09:00 AM
Jordan Hall 238