I promised myself and my family I would detach from work during this vacation—no email, no talk about manuscripts, keep collecting to a minimum, etc. I pretty much kept that promise, too … until I saw the word “insectarium” on the map while looking at my phone in Deer Lake, NL. I’d never heard of the Newfoundland Insectarium and Butterfly Garden. How had this establishment escaped my attention until now?!
We closed the public portion of the Frost Entomological Museum a few years ago so that we could focus on renovating both the collection and research space and also so that we could build an entirely new set of exhibits. I initially (naively) thought it would take about a year before we could reopen. Alas … Although I feel a bit guilty about staying closed for so long, this hiatus has given me myriad opportunities to see what other, similar museums get right and what I think they could do better. It’s also given us time to learn about effective exhibit design and to think about what is realistic given our tiny budget. I have scads of photos from the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Pasto Agricultural Museum, and even the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. I thought I knew every relevant museum and zoo in the world.
To put it succinctly, this museum is so very much worth a visit. It’s incredible. The Insectarium occupies an old dairy barn, and the size of the exhibit space is HUGE, especially given the diminutive size of its focus – insects:
I was overwhelmed by the shear number of things to look at, and I spent most of my time taking pictures and not really admiring or studying the objects. A majority of the exhibits featured insect biology or the insects themselves, which probably is to be expected. A good lesson for me, though, was how much the cultural objects impacted me and made the visit so much more interesting. Cricket culture, bee keeping, and even the jewelry and other objects made from insect parts. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way.
If I dared wish for more it would be that the specimens and objects were accompanied by a bit more information and context. See, for example, these ladybird beetles of Newfoundland:
And small number of individual exhibits were outdated, like this one on insect evolution:
These are very minor quibbles, though. The founders and their team clearly put a lot of time and effort into this museum and the accompanying butterfly garden. I’d argue it’s the largest and best-curated set of insect exhibits I’ve ever seen. Hopefully the Frost Museum will be even a tenth as interesting we when we open again!