WEEDS – friend or foe?
The WEEDS exhibition is centered on “Korsmo’s weed charts” – an exceptional series of botanical wall charts produced in the 1930s by Norwegian agronomist and botanist Emil Korsmo. The charts were and are internationally known, and were used as important educational tools in many European countries for decades.
In the 1930s Norway was a poor country and agricultural productivity was low. Self-sufficiency was regarded as an ideal by all political parties, but it was a distant goal. Extensive research and cultivation trials were conducted in order to increase productivity. Weed control was an important aspect of this national endeavor.
Weeds are all kinds of different plants. It is not a “botanical” category, it is simply any plant growing where we don’t want it, for example in our fields and pastures where they compete with “our” plants. Weeds are "stealing" soil nutrients from the plants we cultivate. Norwegian agronomist and botanist Emil Korsmo made meticulous calculations of the increase in yields one could expect, if we could only get rid of the weeds. He was employed as “state consultant in weed control” and conducted extensive trials, in the Botanical Garden of Oslo and elsewhere, studying every aspect of bothersome weeds in extreme detail – for the purpose of effectively combatting them.
The exhibition comprise two parts – one outdoors and one indoors.
- For the outdoors exhibit, we have selected a group of weeds that are edible. There are many good reasons to raise the public awareness of all the easily available edible plants in the wild. The Natural History Museum/Botanical Garden has one additional reason to do so: The Botanical Garden is participating in a three-year EU project called BigPicnic. One of its main themes concerns the exploit of such free and local resources.
Read more on BigPicnic’s home page
- Indoors we show many more of Korsmo’s wall charts. Here we have selected some of the most beautiful charts, the most commonly known weeds, and the ones with particularly interesting stories to tell. And we tell the story of Emil Korsmo, the remarkable enthusiast behind the whole formidable project of producing the charts – his life and career, his connection to the Botanical Garden, his relationship with Norsk Hydro (a major fertilizer producer) who financed the printing of the charts, and his cooperation with the artists who drew them.
These charts do not become outdated. Of course the plants they depict look exactly the same today as they did in the 1930s, as they will 300 years from now. Some of them have been scientifically renamed since Korsmo’s time, due to modern research which has revealed different kinships than earlier assumed. But the plants themselves don’t change just because we assign them a different name. The information which can be read from the charts is every bit as current and correct today as it was when they were created.
The exhibition is a cooperative venture between The Natural History Museum and NIBIO (The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research). Exhibition designer: Ingunn Cecilie Jensen.
The original prints of the charts are for sale in our museum shop
Norsk Hydro financed the printing of the charts in the 1930s. They were printed in the city of Leipzig, Germany. During WW2, the printing plates were destroyed in a bombing raid. No more charts can be printed.
In the 1990s, Norsk Hydro wanted to get rid of the original prints they still had in storage. A small group of employees were fortunately given permission to privately preserve them, and they have been stored in a barn until now. We have the opportunity to sell them to the public through our museum shop. Such original prints have for half a century only been available through antique dealers, they are rare and unique, and we have several prints of all the 90 charts.