In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Botanical Museum 2. Functions of Botanical Museum 3. Importance 4. History 5. Items.
Meaning of Botanical Museum:
Botanical Museums are primarily for popularization of Botanical Sciences. With the advancement and modernisation of overall system of education and development of visual orientation of studies, it becomes essential to place each and every subject in the Museums.
In the museum the behavioural aspect of the visitors has been studied and suitable visual designs have been developed to help students to understand the subject, for illiterate to introduce himself with it, scientists to feed their problems and finally the masses to know it in a more scientific manner.
Museums are not erected for the preservation of materials and protect them from subsequent destruction only but are primarily meant for promoting scientific research, awaken interest among general public and thus disseminate scientific achievements.
This is why museums are defined internationally as centres of research, education and exhibition. In the majority of the museums, objects of art and history along with curios have taken the major share if not whole of the museum space.
It can safely be said that the subject for a museum may be selective or composite as the case may be but the exposition of various topics including their selection should be in a scientific manner.
From the explanation point of view, some examples have been cited to illustrate what the scientific treatment means:
(1) In almost all types of subjects, the exhibition may be arranged from known or popular material to unknown or difficult topics. The introduction of intricate problems, theories or historical interpretations should be in a phased manner.
(2) The background lay out, artificial environment of light, colour and material should keep its natural effects.
(3) Practically as far as possible, there should be less labels and more visual. The informative folders should find a subsidiary place in an exhibition and not the main item in display.
(4) The arrangement of various exhibits should be to show the event or in the history or the ecology or the industry etc. as it ought to have been at that time or at that place.
(5) There should be a chain type of exhibition showing continuity from object to object to co-relate the story of the whole museum.
Functions of Botanical Museum:
Botanical museums have a variety of functions to perform ranging from the depiction of history of plant introduction, its effects, modelling and designing of different gardens, preservation and methods for utilization of plants and plant parts not merely for identification but also for their use in economic, medicinal and utilization purposes and finally to create on awareness of plants as essential ingredients of human existence and life on earth.
Functions of the Botanical Museum can broadly be classified as under:
2. Scientific, Technical and Research, and
3. Visual education and popularisation of scientific information.
Under this head would fall all the multifarious duties necessarily to be performed in the running of an Institution conforming to the standards fixed up.
These would involved primarily all work connected with:
(a) Establishment matters.
(b) Cash and Accounts and Budget.
(c) Various correspondence with the several units of the Department, the Government, Public Institutions, Private individuals and firms, Educational Institutions and Universities, Accounts and Audit Officers, the Trustees of the Indian Museums and other bodies.
(d) Schemes and projects and programmes necessary to keep the live interest of the Institution and for furthering its cause, and several other routine duties connected with Institutions of this type.
(e) Stock-taking and physical verification of stores, specimens, stationeries and numerous other articles required for the working of the office and maintenance of several registers connected therewith, as required under audit rules.
(f) Keep watch over the continuance of numerous correspondence, filling the indexing of the numerous records, etc.
(g) Scrutiny of bills, registers, vouchers, returns, statements, tender notices, contracts, purchase, despatches, indents, etc. For brevity’s sake the numerous other duties actually handled involving time and labour of the staff, are not included here.
ii. Scientific, Technical and Research:
Under this, the following are the more important ones:
(a) Exploration of botanical specimens and data for survey of the Economic and other resources of the country,
(b) Collection and ledgering of the various information from published and other sources by means of extensive correspondence and personal contacts and field work,
(c) Enlargement of the botanical and other material already in the Museum to bring the collections comprehensive and up-to-date, to keep abreast with the development of Botanical Sciences of the country.
(d) Fundamental and applied researches on the numerous collections, and diffusion of knowledge through popular, semi-popular and scientific publications.
(e) Collection and supply of genuine materials and authentic information to various correspondents, Government Departments, private individuals, technical and commercial people,
(f) Identification of and advice on the raw materials received from time to time, even extending to chemical and other assays on them,
(g) Expansion and maintenance of the library by suitable acquisitions to help in the various scientific and technical duties of the section,
(h) Enlargement and proper maintenance of the Botanical and other scientific collections in the Exhibition Galleries, in the Herbarium attached to the Museum and in the reserve and study collections for scientific purposes, and
(i) Research of various aspects of Botany in relation to its education and exhibition and utilization.
iii. Visual Education and Popularisation of Scientific Information:
Under this, would come principally:
(a) Acquisitions of specimens for the Museum,
(b) Registration, indexing and cataloguing of the collections.
(c) Selection and preparation of specimens for display purposes, for reserve and research purposes, for loan purposes and for substitutions and exchange purposes,
(d) Treatment and preservation of specimens,
(e) Study and interpretation of the specimens,
(f) Exhibition in the public galleries, preparation of circulating exhibits for lending or for arranging exhibitions at outside centres according to scheduled programmes,
(g) Putting up of informative labels,
(h) Preparation and display of flow-charts, colour-pictures, transparencies, models, diagrams, photographic and other illustrations and ether audio-visual aids,
(i) Organisation of small exhibitions at various educational and other centres, as necessary,
(j) Maintenance of the Public galleries and the reserve collections,
(k) Popularisation of Botanical knowledge through the various Museum services for schools, colleges and other organisations,
(l) Visual education through conducted tours in the Museum premises and Cinema shows, where possible,
(m) Attending to the numerous enquiries made to the Museum,
(n) Furtherance of the cause of the museum through Museum popular lectures, Cinema shows, News Bulletins, Pamphlets, Guides, Catalogues and other means,
(o) Undertaking of researches on Museum materials, and
(p) Preparation and publication of popular, technical and scientific notes of interest and Icons, monographs and other scientific publications.
In the present work, the subject of Botanical sciences has been taken for purposes of Museum treatment which forms an important subject for even the existence of human beings. Botany has not been given its suitable position among the various science museums.
Importance of Botanical Museum:
The existence of Botanical Gardens throughout the world are nature’s Green Museums and extends lot of scope for all types of people to study the habitat, growth of plants besides enjoying their beauty.
Presently there are 18500 such museums with research laboratories in the world. Such museums have attained immense importance in the context of large number of vanishing species whose conservation has become important through plant introduction activity with such museums.
Museums are now considered as dynamic educational force offering incalculable opportunities to all types of people.
Museums are primarily the centres of research activity without which good teaching through exhibition communication is not possible.
Very recently museum technologists of the world have endorsed “If you wish your schools of science and art to be effective to your health, the air and food to be wholesome, your life to be too long, your manufactures to improve, your trade to increase, your people to be civilized, you must have museums of science and art to illustrate the principles of life, health, nature etc.”
A Museum also gives an entertainment besides introducing science to a non-science person, teaches its principles to those who know a little about it, illustrates the variable forms of the subject to its educated visitors, serves as guide to research workers in the subject.
Thus a museums objective is complete only when it becomes a nucleus of pleasure for its vast majority of both literate and illiterate visitors and educate a little higher than to what the others are capable of.
History of Botanical Museum In India:
In India there are about 120 important Public Museums and about 250 small, site and personal museums. Which are known or rarely known or situated at remote places not connected directly through public transport system and about 650 Biological museums which are as adjuncts to colleges and universities.
From amongst the first group of museums, Botany is represented as an independent unit only at two places e.g., Indian Museum, Calcutta, under Botanical Survey housing chiefly economic and industrial plant products of India and the other at Madras Museum Egmore Madras where general collection of plants has been kept.
The Natural Museum at Delhi erected in the early part of eighty, exhibits some habitat cases of plants showing vegetational aspect and assorted few specimens of economic plants in the service of Mankind.
However from studies it has been further found that in some of the state Museum, Bombay, Salarejung Museum, Hyderabad, Baroda Museum, Gujarat etc. there exist some display of plant sciences in combination with animals while showing them in their natural habitat. There are quite a good number of Botanical Museums in Colleges and Universities chiefly depicting the academic nature of the subject.
Items of Botanical Museum:
Botanists are required to be equipped with varied forms of knowledge to held a scientist in his research persuits, a visitor to get scientific knowledge of known plant materials of his area, a trader in collection, identification and quality estimation of economic plants, a student to recapitulate his knowledge of the subject and get more popular information on the scientific details of species, a foreigner on the morphology, phylogeny of Indian plants, a child to attract his aesthetic sense and appreciate the beauty of nature, a planner towards his cities population problems and a museologist to ledger informations of different types etc.
Medicinal plants either effecting different parts of the body or used in Ayurveda and unani systems of medicine or exploited for making allopathic the rapeutic preparations or used for extracting homoeopathic medicines.
Indian species in foreign material medic, exotic plants in Indian economy, Indian plants for popular international introductions with their nutritional values have been enumerated to focus chiefly the internationalism of Indian Botany.
Regional or local species producing dyes, gums and resinous plants, oil and oil seed species, plants exploited in furniture or cabinet making industry, species employed for making beads, toys, match boxes, for getting fibres, narcotics, food and fodder, pen and pencils, mats and coir, plywood, alkaloids, saponins and flavins etc. have been enumerated.
The Botanists therefore have been given ample choice in selecting suitable subjects for their museums depending on the availability of plant material in their region.
Thought provoking and exciting labels, very often are important in museums, so the visitors can feel impulse of botanical science as the most dynamic subject for study, entertainment and economic development. In the first instance the wonders of plants world is taken up as a pioneer topic.
3. Plant Curious:
The eye catching labels touch the inherent hidden emotions of the visitors and care informative in function also, for example:
(a) Non-vegetarian plant:
Nepenthus khasiana or Pitcher plant, Fig. No……. as depicted with specimen or photograph or model. Similarly Drosera, Utricularia may also be kept.
(b) Plant explosives:
Viscum fruits or Eucalyptus fruits at the time of its bursting liberates seed like a spray.
(c) Natural flower vase:
Sunflower. Helianthus annus.
(d) Weights and measures from seeds:
Abrus precatorious, Ratti seeds uniform in their shape, size, weight that they are used by jewellers for weighing costly items.
(e) Plant thieves:
Cuscuta – plant touches the host and sends haustoria to suck the prepared food material.
(f) Double coconut or Largest and heaviest fruits from trees in the World:
Lodoicea maldivica – biggest record of its fruit is upto 35 kg.
(g) Water tree or travellers tree:
Ravenala madagascariensis – Water accumulates at the leaf base and used for drinking in necessity.
4. Time Recording Plants:
(a) Morning glory:
Ipomoea purpurea – Flowers bossom just at dawn and with the first ray of the sun, all flowers close.
(b) Mid-day plant or sunflower:
Helianthus annuus – flowers direction changes with the sun.
Polyanthes tuberosa – flowers bloom just as sun set and start emitting fragrant smell which fades away when night approaches.
(d) Night queen:
Centrum nocturnum – flowering starts from 8 p.m. and flowers fell down by 4 a.m.
(e) Mid-night plant:
Nyctanthus arbor-tristis, Harsinghar – flowers start blossoming just at sun set and at mid-night they are in full bloom emitting lot of sweet smell. In the morning all fall down to ground before sun-rise.
Besides these examples there are many more to be included in the museum.