More than 12,000 economic botany specimens are housed in the Timothy C. Plowman Economic Botany Collection. The collection comprises economic "useful" plants and plant products, with the primary emphasis on seed plants.
The original collection was assembled for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago. Later additions were obtained from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. Smaller numbers of specimens were assembled and exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1915, and the New York World's Fair of 1939. Plant material and plant products from all around the world were sent to these expositions. The collection is currently housed in a compactorized storage unit that was designed to meet the unique needs of these objects. The collection is named in honor of Timothy C. Plowman, ethnobotanist and former curator of Botany, who was instrumental in obtaining funds to preserve this collection.