Diversity Of Exhibit Techniques

Facilities that house live insects are diverse in construction as well as in the type of sponsoring institution. To face the challenges of exhibiting small, short-lived, seasonally limited, diapausing animals with radically different life stages, major facilities rely heavily on the in-house maintenance of breeding colonies so that specimens are available year-round. Founder stock is collected from the wild or obtained through exchange or purchase from other insectaries to establish and maintain genetically healthy colonies. In contrast, many butterfly houses rely on independently run breeding facilities, often in the species's country of origin. Pupae are generally received weekly from various butterfly ranches or farms. Some butterfly houses also have supplemental in-house breeding colonies of selected species of butterflies. Many for-profit butterfly houses maintain breeding populations both for their own display and to sell to other butterfly houses.

Exhibit techniques have not changed much during the 120 years since the opening of the first insect exhibit at the London Zoo in 1881 (Fig. 1). Even in 1881, informative labels and preserved specimens of insects accompanied the live insect displays. The major change has been the inclusion of interactive techniques and graphics to enhance the interpretive experience of the display. Today, insectariums are really zoo—museum hybrids. Interactive computer modules, microscopes, audio tracks, video loops, models, robotics, and cultural artifacts are now used to enrich and enliven the educational messages. Special displays on topics related to

FIGURE 1 The London Zoo opened the first major insect exhibit in the world in 1881. This contemporary photograph was made by collector William Hornaday. [From "Zoological Gardens Illustrated" (photograph album), Vol. 1, "London Zoological Gardens." © Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.]

FIGURE 1 The London Zoo opened the first major insect exhibit in the world in 1881. This contemporary photograph was made by collector William Hornaday. [From "Zoological Gardens Illustrated" (photograph album), Vol. 1, "London Zoological Gardens." © Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.]

cultural entomology have been included in some facilities such as the Insect Zoo at the San Francisco Zoo, which has produced special exhibits on ancient cricket cages of China, insects as human food, and aquatic insects in terms of fly fishing and fly tying in North America. These techniques combine to address different visitor learning styles, ages, and interests. Some facilities have educational outdoor garden displays to focus attention on native insects and plant interactions, and a few facilities adjoin or are sister organizations to native wildlife reserves.

Most often, insect exhibit facilities are associated with larger institutions. Zoological gardens such as the London Zoo, Cologne Zoo, Berlin Zoo, Tama Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, and St. Louis Zoo all contain major insectariums. General histories of zoos and aquariums, while focused on vertebrates, can be found in the encyclopedic memory and archives of Marvin Jones (San Diego Zoo) and in edited volumes by Kisling, and Hoage and Deiss. Natural history museums such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science have insect zoos or butterfly houses; the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is located within Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; universities such as Kansas State University, Michigan State University, the University of Joensuu in Finland, and the University of Alberta in Canada all have seasonal butterfly gardens or insect zoos. The Insectarium de Montreal (Canada), the Insectarium of Victoria (Australia), the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center (Colorado), and the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House (Missouri) are examples of independent stand-alone facilities. Insectariums vary from tax-supported municipal institutions to nonprofit organizations to for-profit corporations. The for-profit businesses such as the Penang Butterfly House in Malaysia, Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm in England, Butterfly World in Florida, and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Australia serve as both public exhibits and commercial suppliers. While many are permanent, year-round facilities, the popularity of live insect exhibits (and perhaps the short life span and easy transportability of insects) has allowed for the explosion of temporary or seasonal exhibits, particularly butterfly displays.

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