Hello all, firstly thanks to Mike for setting me up so I can start blogging.
Secondly, here’s what I’ve done so far on my chosen object- a lepidoptera collection in the biology collections at leeds. I’ve found it hard to find out specifics about the object, but alot on lepidoptera in general. I’ve got my piece and an atempt at a 30 word label below. Please send feedback so I improve it.
Butterflies and moths both belong to an order called the ‘Lepidoptera’. Which is one of the most diverse groups of insects on the planet, estimates of the number of species range from a 100,000 to a quarter of a million, divided into between 125-175 families depending on who you talk too. Their diversity and notorious beauty from around the world can be clearly seen in the specimens here in Leeds because they have been obtained from many places, such as the Americas (labelled as ‘new world butterflies’ in this collection). The Lepidoptera play an enormous role in pollinating the earth’s planet population and form a vital part of the food chain.
Surprisingly there is no taxonomic difference between a butterfly and a moth, indeed it would taken expert to tell which of the species in these cases where moths and which where butterflies. Despite many generalizations, and several detailed looks by taxonomists there is no distinction that can be drawn upon, it seems some families of butterflies are closer to families of moths than they are to other species of butterfly. One of the most widely held generalizations for example is that moths are nocturnal and butterflies are not. Though this is true for the butterfly, it is not so for moths, many species are Crepuscular (active in twilight, at dawn and dusk), and of the 2,500 species of moth endemic to Britain, a hundred are active during the day, but there are only 60 species of butterfly in Britain, and so there are more species of moth flying around in the day than there are butterflies.
The origins of the names ‘butterfly’ and ‘moth’ are largely lost in time, but there are several theories surrounding them. There are two theories of the word ‘butterfly’ firstly, that it comes from the old English word ‘buterfleoge’ meaning ‘butter-coloured flies’. The second idea is that it comes from the old English ‘flutter-bys’, in parallel with an old English belief that witches took the form of butterflies to steal milk and butter. This is doubted, even if butterflies and witches did really, really like butter (?)… How much can a butterfly carry? But it is still a nice idea.
The origins of the ‘moth’ are more mundane; there are numerous languages from which it could have originated most interestingly is from the word ‘midge’ a common term in English used up until the 16th century to indicate larvae, usually in reference to the devouring cloth. This leads to a great misconception of moths; that they eat clothes. Moths love to lay their eggs in dark recesses, making your wardrobe the perfect place to breed. But of the afore mentioned 2,500 species of moth in Britain only 6 of their larvae have been shown to actually eat textiles, giving the rest of them a bad name.
Whatever the origins of their names, they have always been treasured for their beauty, and more recently used in science as a model organism for ecology and genetics as they are so old (studying the change in genes over millions of years). Though this research has happened in Leeds to a limited extent, the collection here was never used for this and was probably more used for teaching in identifying butterfly species.
Moths and Butterflies are known as the ‘Lepidoptera’, their use in science is limited but are treasured for their beauty and diversity, so collections like this one are common.
Thank you everyone for your comments, I’ve done what I can with them all, if there is still anything you strongly object to here please tell me as soon as possible. I’m going to ask the university printer dept designers to make this look nice and ask if they can add a campus map (with the departments we have objects from highlighted) as our main illustration.
Here is the updated panel, building on from the first draft. How does everyone feel about having their name listed on the panel as part of the museum team responsible for this case?
Objects can offer the first clue and a great inspiration to explore new stories in the history of science. Here at Leeds we have recovered treasures once hidden across campus: the camera used to take the first picture of DNA; a century-old seed tray tucked away in a now redundant teaching collection; an entire bookmaking workshop complete with papermaking, typesetting and bookbinding apparatus, to name a few.
All have interesting stories to tell. Together they give a rare glimpse of the University’s
rich heritage, its origins as a medical school, its early days aiding the local textile industry, and its gradual transition into the institution it is today. More than that, we get a sense of day-to-day life at the university back when these objects were used in teaching and
For more information on the project or all these objects and more please see our videos on YouTube, our blog and our website.
Here is my draft text – please comment asap, the university printers (pcb) have said they need a week to print, so I’d like to send it off on Wednesday if I possibly can. I thought we might use a map of campus (as I think Michael Kay suggested back at one of our first meetings) as the main illustration for the panel, ideally highlighting the departments we have objects from. If anyone would like to suggest alternatives or additions to this please say.
Just so you know, I thought we might get a free standing panel (see the free standing panels outside the language dept as an example; the printers only do one size) to stand alongside the case. Do say if you don’t think this is a good idea. Also please tell me if any of you have any design skills – I have the dimensions, the text (see below) and illustration ideas, but no real clue as to how to put that all together to make something that looks nice. If I get no volunteers I may have to send it to pcb’s designer. Anyway, here is the text (its 154words as it stands):
Objects can offer the first clue and a great inspiration to explore new stories in the history of science. Here at Leeds we have recovered treasures once hidden across campus: the camera used to take the first picture of DNA; a tray containing century old seeds tucked away in a now redundant teaching collection; an entire bookmaking workshop complete with papermaking, typesetting and bookbinding apparatus.
Individually these objects have interesting stories to tell. Together they give a rare glimpse of the University’s rich heritage, its origins as a medical school, its early days aiding the local textile industry, and its gradual transition to become the institution it is today. More than that, we get the details, daily life at the University, as these objects played
their part in teaching and research.
For more information on the project or all these objects and more please see our videos on YouTube; our blog and our website.
Thanks everyone who came to the meeting on Wednesday, and I look forward to your posts on your chosen objects. For those of you not there, this is what we discussed and decided, more or less.
All together we now have at least 9 objects for the case: 2 from physics (and possibly another from maths), 2 from botany/ biology/ herbarium, 1 from history of education, 1 from medicine, 1 from English, pieces from the Newlyn-Philips machine and the Astbury camera. The plan is now for each person who chose an object to tell us about it in 4 main ways: by talking about it on camera for 1 minute, writing a catalogue entry, writing c.500wds on it on the blog and later putting this on the website linked to the catalogue entry. And finally to reduce all that to a 30wd label for the case.
Everyone seemed pretty happy with the Hidden Histories theme, each pleasingly interpreting this theme in a different way. The theme can be taken to mean hidden objects and collections but also hidden stories and the hidden history of the university, which it was generally felt, is not celebrated at Leeds as much as at other universities, but is interesting and a potential selling point of Leeds university.
That’s all, please watch out for (or write and post) information on all the objects so far chosen for the case.