Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Nepal Natural History Drawings

This is a unique opportunity to see a display of some of the first scientific natural history drawings from Nepal in London at Embassy of Nepal, 12A Kensington Palace Gardens

Daphne papyrifera

 Admission is free, and the show will be open to the public 7-24 January, 
Monday-Friday, 10am-1pm and 2-4pm

This collection of drawings from Nepal was made by Dr Francis Buchanan (later known as Buchanan-Hamilton) between 1802-03, when he was practicing as a surgeon-naturalist on the British Mission led by Captain Knox. During his year in the Kathmandu Valley, he documented more than a thousand plant species, many of which are now rarely seen. This Scottish 'father of Nepalese botany' laid the foundation of botanical knowledge for this Himalayan country, and over 500 new species have been described using his collections.

Woodcut of George Buchanan
Buchanan-Hamilton took with him to Nepal a Bengali artist from Calcutta who prepared exquisite coloured watercolour drawings of over a hundred species – 27 of which have been selected for this exhibition. On his return to England in 1806, Buchanan-Hamilton gave these drawings, and his other scientific records, to his friend James Edward Smith, and they have lain virtually unknown in the archives of the Linnean Society of London ever since. This exhibition is the first public viewing outside Nepal of the Buchanan-Hamilton’s drawings, made by a talented but sadly un-named Indian artist.

Current research is still uncovering the scientific and cultural value of these early collections. Buchanan-Hamilton placed great importance on the local names that the people were using for plants and instructed his Indian pandit, Babu Ramajai Bhattacharji, to record these spoken names and translate them into English. Buchanan-Hamilton frequently used these common names for the new scientific names that he coined and subsequently wrote on the drawings.

Buchanan-Hamilton is now recognised as the pioneer of biodiversity research in Nepal, but he could not have done this by himself and he needed to collaborate with Nepalese and Indian people. As he was one of the first foreigners to spend any length of time in Nepal, he had an unsurpassed understanding of the people, their cultures and traditions, which later helped underpin the developing relationship between Britain and Nepal. Two centuries on, botanical research continues with British and Nepalese scientists working together on the Flora of Nepal.

This facsimile exhibition has been produced by the Linnean Society of London and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, with the support of the Embassy of Nepal and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

It has been sponsored by Nature & Herbs UK Ltd.

4 comments:

  1. It's a pity not to leave in London or even in Englad! There are so many interesting art events to go to that...... I dream about it. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Renata - I always think it's such a pity that a lot of the things are in London. Edinburgh is pretty good at these sorts of things, but I wish that more regional museums did things like this, or that exhibitions toured the country more.

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