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Nova Pesquisa Sobre as Coleções de Richard Spruce na Amazônia: uma Colaboração Brasil - Reino Unido

Viviane Fonseca Kruel, Luciana Martins, Mark Nesbitt, William Milliken, Márlia Coelho-Ferreira


The Northwest Amazon comprises a large region of equatorial forest on the border of Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, which has been inhabited by indigenous peoples since the pre-colonial period. Today they occupy 80% of its area. Travellers such as Richard Spruce, who visited the region in the 1850s-1860s, described the vitality and dynamics of these populations, demonstrated by the size of their longhouses, their extensive inter-communal ceremonies, and their rich material culture. The biocultural objects and associated information collected by Richard Spruce constitute a unique point of reference for the useful plants, ethnobotany, anthropology and environmental history of the region. Housed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the British Museum, both in London, this under-researched collection incorporates indigenous plant-based artefacts, samples of useful plant products, detailed archival notes on the use of plants by inhabitants of the Amazon, and accompanying herbarium voucher collections. This paper focusses on an ongoing research programme aimed at building capacity in Brazil to research, cataloguing and mobilising data from these biocultural collections, and developing these important resources for improved understanding of the useful and cultural properties of plants. It aims to build collaborative relationships, making biocultural collections and associated data freely accessible online, and above all to strengthen capacity of indigenous communities on the Rio Negro for autonomous research into material culture and plant use. We present the activities we have developed in the first two years of the programme. Workshops at Kew, Rio de Janeiro and São Gabriel da Cachoeira have enabled the Spruce collections to be fully digitised and artefacts made available through the Reflora portal ( br). Training has been given in collection and study of biocultural objects, both to museum staff and representatives of indigenous communities, and a research agenda developed that focuses on better understanding of the shifting relationships between people and natural resources over the last 200 years. We discuss how a broad collaboration has led to constructive, culturally appropriate engagement with local communities, providing a portal into the world of scientific knowledge and helping to mobilise both scientific and indigenous knowledge in a mutually beneficial manner.


biocultural collections; Amazônia; indigenous peoples; repatriation; indigenous knowledge

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Direitos autorais 2018 Ethnoscientia


ISSN 2448-1998