Butterfly Conservatory Returns to AMNH

After a pandemic-related absence, museum is bringing back the immersive live exhibit

| 08 Nov 2021 | 08:46

After an 18 month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Butterfly Conservatory is returning to enchant visitors at the American Museum of Natural History, marking the 23rd year the exhibit has come to the Upper West Side museum.

The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter, is an attraction typically featured during the fall and winter months, beckoning New Yorkers indoors with lush vegetation and blooming tropical flowers, balmy temperatures that peak around 80 degrees, and pearly-winged butterflies. Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, noted that the Butterfly Conservatory “is a joyful, enchanting, and educational exhibition for both children and adults and truly transports visitors out of their everyday lives into a magical setting teeming with color and flourishing life.”

“Butterflies are also important harbingers of environmental change, and so this exhibition offers not just a unique and fascinating experience,” Futter added, “but also an opportunity to learn about the roles butterflies play in ecosystems and why it is so critical that we protect them.”

While visitors of the exhibit stroll around the 1,200 square-foot vivarium, glancing at any of the over 500 butterflies in the Conservatory, they are welcomed to learn about the butterfly life cycle, how they live, and why they are important to the environment on educational displays posted outside the vivarium. Strong beams of light stream from above, radiating from lamps that simulate being in the midst of a rain forest, which is the natural environment many of the conservatory’s butterflies are found in.

The butterflies at the exhibit come from a host of locations around the world, including Florida, Costa Rica, Kenya, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador, and Australia. Additional featured species include blue morpho butterflies, scarlet swallowtails, owl butterflies, and green birdwings.

In an interview for The West Side Spirit, Hazel Davies, director of living exhibits at AMNH, observed the role that the Butterfly Conservatory holds within the museum. “The conservatory is unique in the museum that it is a fully immersive live exhibit. The butterflies are moving, interacting with each other and the visitors. It is a chance to get really close to them and observe their behavior. When you step inside the conservatory you are entering their world, it is steamy and tropical, you are surrounded by trees, shrubs, and flowers, I think it helps you appreciate their world.”

Davies also commented on the popularity of the attraction, saying, “Visitors last winter were asking where the butterflies were. There is always something new to see which is one reason it is so popular with members and return visitors. We have so many different species from around the world you can notice a different one each time you visit...In the middle of a New York winter, it is such a nice escape to be surrounded by light and warmth and colorful movement.”

The Butterfly Conservatory will be on display at the museum from November 20, 2021, until May 30, 2022. In the fall of 2022, a year-round Butterfly Conservatory will be installed as part of the museum’s new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.

“Visitors last winter were asking where the butterflies were. There is always something new to see which is one reason it is so popular with members and return visitors.” Hazel Davies, director of living exhibits at AMNH