Written by Cockrell Butterfly Center Manager Lauren Davidson
The Cockrell Butterfly Center is best known for its, well, butterflies. Throughout history, the life cycle of the butterfly has been a symbol of rebirth and transformation. As many of you know, we have been closed since last September to allow the building to have a metamorphosis of its own.
When our doors reopen, you won’t find that the entomology halls have been redone. You also will not find new signage, fancy new displays nor will you see new gadgets to play with. These are changes that will be coming at a later time. The current renovations being completed are quite subtle. In fact, most people might not even notice anything immediately different when they walk through the doors. So, just what exactly have we been up to this whole time?
The largest piece of this project involves our windows. All 535 panes of glass are in the process of being replaced. The unique shape of our structure means this is no small feat. There are an endless number of different shapes and sizes that make up our unique greenhouse. Additionally, the exhibit is full of live, tropical plants that must be protected from the elements and cannot be disturbed during the process. This means the glaziers have to work at a bit of a slower pace. It is all well worth it! The new panes are better insulated to keep our center’s temperature more regulated while also allowing more light in to feed the plants. The happier the plants are, the happier the butterflies will be.
Our pathways, though naturalistic, were quite narrow. We have widened these out to allow more space for guests and also resurfaced them so they are friendlier to navigate, especially for those with mobility limitations.
We have added additional benches to the exhibit. This will allow more people to sit and enjoy the butterflies or to take a break from walking around in the tropical climate.
When we opened in 1994, everything was state-of-the-art in the building, including the lighting. Over time, parts have become more difficult to locate for minor repairs. Also, the lights were less than eco-friendly. In order to better support evening events, all of the lighting is being upgraded to LEDs. It also means the giant housing for the lights could be removed, creating a cleaner silhouette and letting even more natural light in.
The Cockrell Butterfly Center has always prided itself on our live plant collection. However, there is one plant in particular that is in fact, well… fake. That is the large Kapok tree in the middle of the conservatory. It is a large structure that actually houses part of our HVAC system. You may remember at one time, it had a large vine growing around it. That vine left some damage that has now been rectified. We also replaced all of the artificial leaves. You may have never even noticed them, but their predecessors were old and faded. We now have new leaves installed that are much sturdier and can hold up to the elements.
We are so excited to welcome everyone back on March 11th. Don’t forget, members get a special sneak-peak during the day on March 10th. We are also having some special evening events, so make sure to check that out here and get your tickets before they’re gone!