William James Kaye (1875-1967) created the collection that is featured in this post. This collection contains some of the first specimens with which Arthur C. Allyn (1913-1985), the founder of the Allyn Museum of Entomology, commenced his grand butterfly adventure. Years later, it became one of the gems in the collection of the McGuire Center, now home to one of the world’s finest Lepidoptera collections.
Collections are precious, and old collections are doubly so. They represent biotas that are there no longer—during the 20th century, we greatly accelerated the millennia-long process of changing our habitats. One would have a hard time recognizing most places in contemporary Great Britain, if one were to time-travel there from the early 20th century, when Kaye made his collection.
Unlike most specimens in our collection, Kaye’s British Lepidoptera are stored in their original Victorian-style entomological cabinets. Many of them still look as fresh as when they were first collected, even though man-made materials around them show signs of aging and decay.