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Museum’s Much-loved Insect Drawers Get A Summer Outing

The bugs are back.

Canterbury Museum’s much-loved insect drawers, which have fascinated and entertained children for decades, will be briefly back on display for Bugs at the Museum, a creepy crawly Summer treat opening on 17 January.

Dr Morgane Merien, Museum Science and Curatorial Communicator, with the bug drawers

The insect drawers containing hundreds of specimens from the Museum collection were a popular feature of Discovery, the Museum’s natural history centre for children. They have been in storage since the Rolleston Avenue site closed for redevelopment.

The colourful and fascinating drawers, full of beetles, butterflies, moths and stick insects, will be back on display at Canterbury Museum at CoCA, the Museum pop-up at 66 Gloucester St in central Ōtautahi Christchurch, from 17 January to 29 January.

Dr Morgane Merien, Canterbury Museum Science and Curatorial Communicator, hopes that young and old alike will be inspired to appreciate the wonderful world of insects and spiders.

“It’s the perfect time of year to get out into the garden and see what insect life you can find. Aotearoa New Zealand is home to over 20,000 species of insects, many only found in our tiny corner of the planet,’’ she says.

“As one of the most successful lifeforms on Earth, insects are the little things that run the world. Their presence is critical to the wellbeing and health of various ecosystems. Scientists are continually making discoveries about the roles of insects, as well as describing new species. There is so much still to learn.”

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Museum curators selected large, shiny and spiny insects to spark children’s imagination, or horror, when the drawers were first made for Discovery in 1998. The insects represent just a tiny slice of the Museum’s collection of more than 300,000 bug specimens. The collection includes 125,000 pinned specimens, 150,000 preserved in ethanol and about 8,000 type specimens, which are held as the definitive reference insect for a particular species.

The insect collection dates back to the nineteenth century and grew rapidly under Frederick Hutton’s directorship in the 1890s.

Museum Tumuaki/Director Anthony Wright says the return of the insect drawers will be a summer treat for children.

“They are a Museum favourite and it feels good to bring them back. The drawers are a wonderful gateway to the curious, engrossing and tiny world of insects.”

Beautiful close-up photographs of insect specimens in all their winged, prickly and bug-eyed glory will also be on display.

A range of fun family activities are part of Bugs at the Museum. These include family-friendly talks from the Museum’s bug experts on the secret world of backyard insects and the fascinating life of flies. Kids will also get the chance to meet live insects and ask our educators all about bugs at a drop-in session. Artist Sharnae Beardsley, who is celebrated for her beautifully detailed artworks of plants and insects, will be hosting special drawing classes.

Bugs at the Museum opens on 17 January at Canterbury Museum at CoCA and will run until 29 January 2024. Free entry; donations appreciated.

Read more about the exhibition and the programme of events here: https://www.canterburymuseum.com/visit/whats-on

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