Biocultural Collections include plants and animals used by people, products made from them, and information and archives about them. They are numerous and diverse, including biological specimens, valuable natural products (e.g., medicine, food, fibers, resins) and cultural artifacts (e.g., clothing, baskets, weaponry, tools) from around the world. Existing Biocultural Collections are poorly curated and lack established standards for preservation, data-basing, and exhibition. As a result they are largely inaccessible for research, reference and use. The Biocultural Collections Workshop will remedy longstanding neglect of these valuable resources and facilitate their use by gathering experts to develop and publish Biocultural Collection Curation Standards that meets the needs of the greatest number of people.

The broader impact of the Workshop will be to make popular Biocultural Collections available to the public, teachers, students, underrepresented groups, conservationists and development professionals. Plants and animals with diverse economic, subsistence, cultural and historical uses are the foundation of BC, and thus the collections have value for a community of users far greater than those in the basic sciences. These collections are employed in many forms of applied research, conservation, natural resource management, development, and education. Standardization of and improved access to Biocultural Collections will greatly augment the depth and breadth of our knowledge of useful plants and animals and will make these collections more meaningful to a broad audience.

Project Report

Biocultural collections are collections of plants and animals used by people, artifacts and products made from or for processing plant and animals, and/or information and archives about them. Biocultural collections include: • Herbarium and zoological specimens with label information on use, preparation, common name or other cultural and linguistic information. • Plant and animal products and processes: from art, clothing, and commercial food and medicine products to tools, religious artifacts, toys or even refuse. • Ethnographic materials and cultural artifacts: from buttons to boats, items made from or used in processing plant and animal materials and information regarding their cultural/religious contexts. • DNA collections: frozen tissue or extracted DNA samples of useful plants and animals and their wild relatives. • Live collections: in-situ and ex-situ collections of useful plants and animals; germplasm, tissue in culture, seeds, semen, etc. • Paleo-ethnobotanical and zoological materials: archaeological plant and animal remains and modern reference collections. • Biocultural Documentation: Libraries and Archives including cultural texts, research field notes, maps (GIS, electronic, and paper), audio and linguistic collections, photo and video archives, ethnobiological prints, and any illustrative materials that depict the products or processing of raw plant/animal materials (books, photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, models, digital images, audio and video). However, these useful collections are poorly curated and data based – if at all – making them largely inaccessible for research and reference. Educators and the public are also interested in accessing these collections through on-line sites such as . The main objectives of our workshop on Biocultural Collections have been met including: 1) Biocultural experts gathered to develop standards of curation. 2) Presenters submitted chapters on their topics of expertise for publication. 3) Chapters were submitted, reviewed, revised, edited and compiled into the book, Curating Biocultural Collections, which is now 4) in press at Kew Press in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden for publication this year. 5) Dissemination of workshop results on how to curate biocultural collections has been expanded. For broader dissemination and particularly to enhance ethnically diverse participation and involvement, spin-off workshops have been and will be held at major Ethnobiology meetings around the world. In the future with further funding, we intend to increase digitized access to valuable Biocultural Collections on-line.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Anne Maglia
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Missouri Botanical Garden
Saint Louis
United States
Zip Code