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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Schultes in the Savannah


Richard Evans Schultes with Rolleiflex, Savannah of Ypobodá, 1946

Kamsa Apprentice

Kamsá Apprentice with "Drunken Snake," Sibundoy, June 1953

Richard Evans Schultes (1915–2001) spent twelve years in the Colombian Amazon during the 1940s and early 50s—exploring lands where no naturalist had ever been. He mapped uncharted rivers, lived among two dozen Indian tribes, and collected some 25,000 botanical specimens, including 300 new species and over 2,000 medicinal plants previously unknown to science. Schultes was the world's botanical authority on natural rubber and medicinal, toxic, and hallucinogenic plants. His photographs evoke an era when the tropical rainforests stood immense, and the peoples of the forest relied on plants not only for sustenance, but for medicinal and religious purposes as well.

Based on Wade Davis’ and Chris Murray’s, The Lost Amazon, this exhibit presents thirty-eight of Schultes photographs accompanied by evocative quotations from Davis and Schultes. The exhibit also includes Schultes’ Rolleiflex camera, several herbarium sheets from the Museum’s collection that use specimens Schultes collected, and personal items from the Schultes family.

In addition to his famous journeys to the Amazon, Schultes also had a prestigious academic career that spanned six decades at Harvard. Among Schultes students and associates were Michael Balick, Wade Davis, John Kress, Timothy Leary, Mark Plotkin, Timothy Plowman, Cristian Samper, and Andrew Weil.

The exhibit was curated by Smithsonian botanist John Kress, and guest curators Wade Davis, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society and author of The Lost Amazon and One River, and Chris Murray, Founder and Director of Govinda Gallery. The photographs were printed by Adamson Editions.

The exhibit was made possible by the Banco de la República, The Embassy of Colombia, and the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

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