The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.
This description is from Nancy, the museum’s director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the rarest and most interesting insects in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and a special web site devoted to our Centennial – throughout the year.
Only a few hundred specimens of this spectacular butterfly, all collected in the 1920s and 30s, exist in collections. Hailing from the Orinoco delta region of Venezuela, it could well have been one of the butterflies collected by Henri Charriere, on whose life “Papillon” was based.
Today, pollution and urbanization resulting from extensive oil drilling in the area has degraded much of this butterfly’s original range. Because the species has not been collected in over 50 years, it is very possible that it is now extinct.
Learn more about butterflies and their relatives in a visit to the new Brown Hall of Entomology, a part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center– a living, walk-through rainforest at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.