A drawer full of tiger moth specimens.

Come one, come all, and gather around for all things creepy and crawly, all things mini and beastly and a whole host of spiny, spineless friends we’d love for you to meet.

A taxidermy caterpillar

Yes preserving caterpillars is a thing, and yes, it’s weirder than you think.

Dead Inspiring is an exciting new project working to empower women and young girls to get involved in science by exploring the natural world through the fascinating lens of our world-class entomology collection (which means all things insect-y). We’ve got moths and mantids, Goliath beetles, fig wasps and many many more six-legged wonders to introduce you to.

A drawer full of rainbow scarab beetle specimens

Rainbow scarabs collected from Mexico and Paraguay.

They might be small (mostly), but insects are fundamentally important to our lives as humans, and to the health of our entire planet. From pollination and decomposition to pest control and even space exploration, these six-legged wonders are critical to life on Earth in more ways than we could hope to explain. Even so, their populations are in crisis and researchers around the world are working hard to understand what we can do to help these important invertebrates. That’s where Dead Inspiring comes in. The project will inspire a new generation of scientists and conservationists, and show that entomology is a subject for everyone to be a part of.

A drawer full of moth specimens

Just a few of the many, many moths that can be found in our collection.

From budding bug-lovers searching for critters in the back garden, to aspiring biologists learning the complex ways of insect life, or researchers at the top of their field discovering museum collections as a powerful tool for study and engagement: Dead Inspiring will take all of us on a journey through the wonderful world of insects and the ways they impact each and every one of us, every single day.

With engaging school workshops and learning resources, community events, exhibitions and opportunities to get hands on with the collection and work alongside curators, there’s a lot to look forward to and there will always be some way to get stuck in and learn something new. Museums themselves will benefit, as a core part of the project involves developing a strong women-in-science strategy, helping to inform the sector on the use of collections in powerful and effective ways.

A drawer full of tiger moth specimens.

Some striking tiger moths from our collection of native specimens.

Do you love the way butterflies soar through the forest canopy, but wish you knew more about their spectacular colours? Maybe you haven’t heard of mercenary ants, or insects that keep ‘cattle’ – but now that you have you just have to hear more. Perhaps the ways in which humans are using insects to solve real world issues is what interests you most.

An open drawer in a cabinet, filled with butterfly specimens

A drawer of exotic butterfly specimens at Leeds Discovery Centre.

Thanks to generous support from the Museum Association’s Esmée Fairburn Collections Fund, Dead Inspiring will bring you all these answers and more as we introduce you to an insect collection that fills almost 100 cabinets and over 1500 drawers with bees, beetles, bugs (true ones, that is) and more. We’ll keep you posted with blog updates throughout the project, and look forward to sharing the ins and outs of it with you. Stay tuned to hear about why all of this matters and how you can join in!

Explore the collection with us as we work to uncover the stories hidden in our objects. Learn about the amazing ways that insects have adapted to almost every habitat on Earth. Discover just how important, interesting and inspiring our dead insects can be.

 

By Milo Phillips, Assistant Curator of Entomology.