Butterflies – University of Copenhagen

Geological Museum > Exhibitions > Butterflies

In nature, there is a sensitive barometer that tells about climate change. Butterflies. Nature’s silent messengers. They are sensitive towards small changes in their living conditions - for example temperature instabilities. So, if the butterflies disappear, the message is clear: there is something wrong in nature. And there is. Many places in the world. the butterfly populations are dropping drastically. In Denmark as well. Therefore, the museum will now focus on nature’s silent messengers in a new exhibition. Here the visitors can see some of the museum’s large collection of butterflies, immerse themselves in the butterflies’ wondrous life and learn more about the important digitization work taking place at the museum.

The butterfly is an ancient symbol for change. The modest caterpillar on the green leaf that evolves into a beautiful, winged creature has fascinated humans throughout centuries. Today, the butterflies are also messengers for change. The number of butterflies is dropping and species are disappearing forever. A clear sign that the basic living conditions on Earth are changing.

- Our scientific collections of butterflies go back several centuries. The collections contain vast knowledge about the distribution and living conditions of the species, which can help us understand the drastic decline in the populations. And this is the first step we must take if we wish to preserve the butterflies, says Museum Director Peter C. Kjærgaard and adds:

- The next step is to make this knowledge available to everyone. Over the summer, our new butterfly house in the Botanical Garden has given the audience the possibility to get up close to these beautiful yet fragile creatures. And now we do this again but in a different way with this beautiful and deeply fascinating exhibition. Here, the butterfly’s message about fundamental changes to living conditions on Earth can neither be overheard nor overlooked. This is something we all need to relate to.

Digitization laboratory


In the exhibition, the visitors are invited into a special room where they can experience the digitization process of the museum’s butterflies up close. The beautiful butterfly collection holds more than 2 million specimens. It is a section of this collection that is now being digitized.  

- On a day-to-day basis, most of our butterflies are stored away in the museum’s magazines, and traditionally they have only been available to researchers. With this new digitization laboratory, our guests can see the butterfly collection up close, while simultaneously observing the vital digitization work, says Peter C. Kjærgaard.

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