Our Zoology collections contain approximately 240,000 specimens. Most of these are invertebrates, particularly insects such as butterflies, moths, beetles, flies and bees. We also have a representative selection of birds and mammals, kept as skins and taxidermy.
The Camberwell Beauty butterfly is a rare migrant visitor to this country and there are two specimens in the Museums reference collection. One of them is intriguingly labelled “1872 Lutterworth Leicester Rev. Armitage sister 12/”. The label itself is impressive, being only 6mm in diameter, with the handwriting being less than 1mm high. One of our volunteers researched the family's history in the area and has found that Caroline Hope (nee Armitage) seems to be the most likely to have caught the Camberwell Beauty in Lutterworth for her entomologist brother George.
This specimen is a Queen of Spain Fritillary from the butterfly and moth collection of Mr Arthur James Ponchaud which was donated to Leicestershire Museums. But this butterfly has an amazing story to tell.
It was collected during August 1917 at Viller Faucon in the region of Picardy on the Somme, in France. At the time Viller Faucon was under German occupation. The locality, the date and Arthur’s full name are the clues from the label, but we have to imagine the full story. Did Arthur collect the butterfly when the allies captured Viller Faucon? Could such a beautiful butterfly have witnessed the horrors of World War One?
The collections include specimens collected in Leicestershire as well as a representative collection of British insects.
The Zoology collections are mainly used by our volunteers and researchers, but are also used to provide inspiration to students and artists.
Explore some of them and their stories.