“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

This quote from a Japanese novel is certainly apt in the case of the latest scientist to visit the Booth Museum.

Dr. Shinichi Nakahara, most certainly a friend of butterflies, recently arrived to study the marvellous collections of butterflies at the Booth, where he was on the look out for new species of certain sorts of butterflies known as the Euptychiina, a poorly known group found in the biogeographic region that includes southern Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies.

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What, you might ask, are butterflies from the other side of the world doing in a museum in Brighton? Good question! Many of the specimens Dr. Nakahara examined were collected by Arthur Hall. Hall was born in 1873. He lived in Croydon, Surrey, and later moved to Brighton. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday he went to Europe on a touring holiday with a friend. It was at this time that Hall appears to have started collecting natural history specimens. He had a wide interest in natural history and collected both plants (mainly British) as well as Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths. But his real interest lay with butterflies and especially a group called the Nymphalids which includes some common British species such as the Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and the Peacock. But he also collected and studied members of many other butterfly families from all over the world. During his life he built up a large collection (some thirty cabinets) and, as one might expect from a local man, on his death in 1952, he bequeathed his collection to the Booth Museum where it is the mainstay of what is a world class collection.

Born in Tokyo, our visitor Shinichi Nakawara spent some of his childhood in Britain before he gained a degree in Agriculture in Japan. However, his passion was for butterflies and he developed his lepidopterist skills as an amateur sufficiently for him to gain his current position as a Research Scientist at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainsborough, Florida. He is studying for a doctorate. He did indeed find specimens new to science in the Booth’s collections and will be publishing the results of his studies in due course, helping us understand the world around us just a little better.

And if he is a friend of the butterflies, then as a result he is also a friend of the Booth Museum too!

John Cooper, Keeper of Natural Science