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Sharing the Museum collection, one butterfly at a time

The Museum's historical British butterfly and moth collection is revealing environmental details of the past and conservation opportunities for the future.

In 2013 the Museum embarked on the huge task of digitising 80 million specimens for an online, open-access database.

The UK and Irish Lepidoptera collection was chosen to kick-start the iCollections project.

Today, around 20 per cent of those one million butterfly and moth specimens and their labels - which record when and where they were collected - have been photographed and the data uploaded, and it is already proving useful.

By using the collection to compare the timing of events, such as when the first butterflies appear each year, scientists are finding out how the climate has changed over the past 200 years. They are also identifying past geographical butterfly hotspots for future conservation.