As a second grade teacher, I spent many an afternoon at the Cockrell Butterfly Center, at Houston's Museum of Natural Science. The giant atrium simulates a tropical environment, providing a place for butterflies to drift in 80-degree air.
I know that many of my ecologically-minded brethren and sistren are anti-zoos-and-other-attractions-resembling-zoos (a la the Butterfly Center), but I live with the fear that there may come a time when enclosed spaces will be the only places where exotic animals might roam. Hence, I'm OK with zoos, aquariums, and the like.
I understand the point of view of those who disagree with me, just as I understand the point of view of vegetarians, while I go ahead and eat chickens, but not cows (there's a whole post coming, someday, on that subject).
And yes, below, you see a drawer full of dead butterflies. This is, perhaps, my favorite part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Let me explain ...
Once, while visiting a friend who was spending a year abroad in Edinburgh, I visited the Royal Museum of Scotland (which is awesome, but currently closed awaiting revision).
My favorite part of the museum was a room filled with glass cases that held dead insects, held down with straight pins and labeled with tiny, typed labels. As quaint as the display was, I had the sense that I was standing on the edge of a great human moment. It was through such collections -- painstakingly gathered by sunburned Englishmen hacking their way through jungles -- that we came to understand the mechanisms of evolution. We owe a lot to those geeky British naturalists, with their waistcoats and teatimes. Of course, there's that whole colonialism thing that we have to deal with ... nevertheless, we owe our understanding of biology, in large part, to the guys who liked to stick beetles with straight pins.
So, there's my rumination on the Butterfly Center. All that is really to say: butterflies = pretty.