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Camilo Uribe Botta

I am a Colombian historian PhD research student currently working on the history of the orchid trade between Colombia and the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. I am working under the supervision of Prof. Rebecca Earle and my research is kindly funded by the Chancellor's International Scholarship awarded by the Doctoral College of the University of Warwick.


My thesis, provisionally titled The Hunting of the Odontoglossum Crispum: Colombian Orchids in the Nineteenth Century British 'Orchid Craze' investigates the commerce of Colombian orchids in Victorian Britain. Long before they became an icon of Colombian national identity, orchids played a very important role in the commerce between the United Kingdom and Colombia. My goal is to both shed a new light on the importance of these trade relations in Colombian history, while also bringing attention to the current state of conservation of these once nearly extinct plants.

My PhD thesis will investigate the role that orchids played in the relations between Colombia and the United Kingdom throughout the nineteenth century. I will build on the orchideomania phenomenon to explore the development of trade between Britain and Colombia in the post-independence period, and chart the binational social and cultural impact of the commodification of orchids. My research is therefore framed within two larger historical debates: the history of economic botany and the global history of consumption. The current debate on the importance of nature centers on the scientific advancement and usage of a specific product during the course of the industrial revolution. In the case of Colombian orchids, we must also consider the wider debate on luxury and consumption, as they are plants with no medical use, but with all the qualities of a luxurious commodity: scarce, difficult to obtain and expensive to maintain.

My work will focus on three key questions. First, I will explore how it was discovered that Colombia was an especially rich country in orchids, taking the Royal Botanical Expedition in the New Kingdom of Granada between 1783 and 1816 as a starting point. Then I will focus on their recollection and transport from the South American rainforest to English greenhouses, assessing the impact on their places of origin. I will then shift the focus to the United Kingdom to consider their reception and the role of entrepreneurs in large commercial houses in their sale and how one Colombian orchid, the Odontoglossum Crispum, became the most expensive orchid ever sold. The thesis will conclude by assessing why the orchid export boom came to an end. My goal is to establish the impact of the orchid trade on the Colombian economy and assess the existence or not of an unexplored historical orchid export cycle.

Work Experience

My biggest professional project to date has been as assistant curator and then registrar and collections manager of the overhaul and total renovation of the Colonial Museum in Bogotá between 2013 and 2019. As registrar and collections manager, I was in charge, with the conservator, of the planning and organization of the new storages for a collection of almost 2.000 objects from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In this function, I also co-authored an article on the Iconography in the Museum’s Furniture Collection featured in the Museum’s most recent catalogue. The museological institution I worked for under the Ministry of Culture also houses the Santa Clara Museum, for which I have been both an adviser and co-author, writing its most recent Historical Review.

Parallel to my work at the museum I have been involved as consultant and adviser to diverse projects such as the archaeological and museological plan to the Canoas Archaeological Park in Soacha (2018), as well as Netflix and Caracol TV feature project "Bolívar" (2016-2018) and the guided tour plan for the Colon Theater (2015).

Academic Profile
  • 2019-2023: PhD in History. University of Warwick.
  • 2014-2016: MA (Research) in History. Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia)
  • 2007-2012: BA in History. Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia).
  • History of Latin America
  • History of Colombia
  • History of Consumption
  • History of Science
  • History of Art
  • Global History
  • Museums, Libraries and Archives
  • Public History
  • Camilo Uribe Botta, Juan Pablo Cruz Medina, Viviana Arce Escobar. Reseña Histórica del Museo Santa Clara. Ministerio de Cultura. Bogotá. 2014. ISBN: 978-958-753-149-7
  • Camilo Uribe Botta. "Iconografía del mueble colonial: imágenes para el uso cotidiano" Catálogo Museo Colonial. Vol III. Mobiliario. Ministerio de Cultura. Bogotá. 2018. Pp. 101-119. ISBN: 978-958-5488-65-6

profileCamilo Uribe Botta

Odontoglossum Crispum

Odontoglossum Crispum (Oncidium Alexandrae)

Proyecto de digitalización de los dibujos de la Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reino de Granada (1783-1816), dirigida por José Celestino Mutis: Real Jardín Botánico-CSIC.