Two Butterfly Specimens Are Among PA's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts
September 19, 2013
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will be featured in a six-week online campaign to save Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. An innovative experiment in nonprofit crowdfunding and community building, the campaign launches today and continues through midnight of November 1. The public is encouraged to support the conservation of two important 18th-century butterfly specimens through voting, sharing and donating at PATop10Artifacts.org/butterflies.
The ancient butterflies, so fragmentary that only one of the two can be identified with certainty, represent the oldest insect specimens known to exist in the Americas. Historical letters indicate an American diplomat shipped the specimens from Malta to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in 1841, nearly a century after they were collected. They were given to the Academy in 1864 and had been preserved between sheets of mica, a naturally occurring, clear mineral that predated the ready availability of fine, thin glass for the purpose. Using mica to serve as glazing represents a very creative preservation technique, according to Academy Entomology Collection Manager Jason Weintraub, who co-authored a paper on the subject in the 2013 Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. “It is noteworthy that the Academy, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania hold the only examples of this method known in the Americas.”
The butterfly fragments themselves cannot be restored, but conservators will construct special housing for each specimen and a storage container that will prevent light and temperature fluctuations from causing further deterioration. Preserving these fragmentary specimens is important for the potential information they could provide scientists. Should it prove possible to extract and sequence DNA from these specimens in the future, scientists may be able to confirm their identity, determine their precise geographic origin, and obtain other clues about the history of these specimens. “Natural history specimens are potential powerhouses of information that could lead to information about evolution and environmental change through the millennia,” said Weintraub.
Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts, a statewide initiative created by the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts – the largest nonprofit conservation center in the country – began in January with a statewide call to nonprofit institutions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to submit artifacts demonstrably in need of conservation. An independent review panel of collections care professionals chose the top 10 artifacts from 60 submissions, based on their historical and cultural significance and need for conservation.
“The Academy of Natural Sciences is thrilled to be a part of this special project,” said Dr. Ted Daeschler, the Academy’s Vice President for Collections. “As a 200-year-old natural history museum with 18 million plant and animal specimens, the Academy is a leader in preserving and studying nature’s bounty.”
“Our goal with this campaign is to showcase the state’s historic treasures and the need to preserve and protect our heritage for future generations,” says Ingrid Bogel, Executive Director of CCAHA. “We’ve created this program to give institutions a new platform through which to share their stories and to give people a chance to show their support by voting as many times as they’d like, sharing their favorite artifacts with friends through social media and supporting the conservation of these artifacts with online donations.”
Voting begins on Thursday, September 19 and ends on Friday, November 1 at midnight. At the conclusion of the campaign, institutions that meet their fundraising goals will begin the conservation process, and the artifact garnering the most votes will be named the winner of The People’s Choice Award. For the full list of Top 10 Endangered Artifacts visit PATop10Artifacts.org.
Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and by The Beneficial Foundation. The project is part of CCAHA’s Save Pennsylvania’s Past initiative, a multi-year, statewide effort to protect and preserve the millions of objects and historic artifacts that shape the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s history and define our nation.
How to Support Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts
- Vote – Click to vote for the institution or artifact you are supporting – there’s no limit on the number of votes you can cast.
- Share – Click to share your vote on Facebook and Twitter via PATop10Artifacts.org
- Support – Send a donation of any size to help conserve these historic treasures
Your donation is 100% tax-deductible and will be received by the institution you have donated to at the end of the voting period. All donations, regardless of initial funding goal, will go toward the preservation of the artifacts. Each vote, share, and individual donation will count as one point toward the overall score for the People’s Choice Winner. Voting begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday, September 19 and will end at midnight on Friday, November 1. The People’s Choice Award winner will be announced on Monday, November 4.
About The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is a world-class natural history museum dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science. It is the oldest natural history museum in the Americas, serving more than 200,000 visitors each year through innovative exhibits and educational programs. For the past 200 years, Academy scientists have explored the remarkable diversity of the natural world and amassed one of the world’s top natural history collections with more than 18 million specimens. Today, Academy scientists focus on critical issues in biodiversity, evolution, and environmental science. Learn more at ansp.org.
About the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts
The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is the country's largest nonprofit conservation facility serving cultural, research and educational institutions, as well as individuals and private organizations. Its mission is to provide expertise and leadership in the preservation of the world's material culture. CCAHA specializes in the treatment of works of art and artifacts on paper, such as drawings, prints, maps, posters, historic wallpaper, photographs, rare books, scrapbooks and manuscripts, along with related materials like parchment and papyrus. CCAHA also offers digital imaging services, on-site consultations, educational programs and seminars, fellowships and emergency conservation services. Learn more at ccaha.org.
About Save Pennsylvania's Past
Save Pennsylvania’s Past is a statewide effort to preserve the millions of objects and historic artifacts that shape the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s history and define our nation. Now in its second year, this two-year initiative is preparing collections care staff to address the challenges threatening Pennsylvania’s world-class collections through training programs and online resources.
As Save Pennsylvania’s Past project leader, CCAHA has partnered with a creative coalition of arts, cultural, educational, government, and historic organizations from all across the state: the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC), PA Museums, and LYRASIS. The initiative is supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections Statewide Implementation Grant and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The Beneficial Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Beneficial Bank.