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Economic Botany Collection

Charles Walter, sometime economic botanist of the Museum.

Image: Charles Walter, sometime economic botanist of the Museum.

Source: Museum Victoria

The Economic Botany Collection consists of some 12,000 specimens, models, illustrations and displays. The majority of the collection was established in the 19th century under the direction of the Industrial and Technological Museum's Director, Cosmo Newbry.

Economic Botany referred to the collecting of vegetable samples to be permanently displayed, and was employed in illustrating and enhancing the colonies' producing power. In these early days Ferdinand Von Mueller, as Government Botanist, lent his expert advice for the development of the collection. It was Von Mueller's protege Charles Walter who was appointed as the head of the Economic Botany section and was responsible for a complete re-organisation and re-interpretation of the collection in the 1890s. He noted in March 1891 'It is gratifying to notice how much this change is appreciated by the general public, as twelve months ago visitors to the museum would pass this important section almost un-noticed, while now it is visited constantly, and examined carefully and frequently by persons with notebooks in hand to obtain desirable information.'

For a period of time following Walter's death in 1907 the position was vacant until 1912 when the Museum employed an Economic Botanist, William Dickinson Wilson. In 1932 when Wilson died the Museum decided to change directions and invest in a Curator with mechanical expertise rather than botanical.

Today the collection is incorporated into the History and Technology Collections. The history of vintage fruit varieties, their growers and the beginnings of Victoria's agri-business has become very popular. There are also vast samples of Victorian Timber from the 19th and 20th centuries along with chemical compounds, seeds and grains.

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