orange butterfly in case
Iridescent Butterfly
white patterned butterfly in case
Green and black iridescent butterfly


Naturalists have collected, categorised and curated butterflies for over three hundred years. Stuffing boxes and cabinets with their curiosities, they ordered and classified their shining Aurelian specimens. This was, of course, at a time when evolutionary theory was hot off the press, and science was becoming exciting.

Yet, the Aurelians were not just a people of science; they were also a people of great feeling. It was their curiosity, their admiration of beauty, their passion and wonder that drove them to search in fields and in forest. And, oh, that moment of discovery - of sighting a rarity. Such a moment was often based on luck, and likened to an epiphany. Take, for example, the feeling of one Aurelian enthusiast, upon finding an Ornithoptera croesus:

My heart began to beat violently... I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache for the rest of the day.
— Alfred Russel Wallace

Now, my curiosity is with the naturalists themselves: what made them tick, and how and why they created these beautiful, dusty monuments to Mother Nature. That is my study.