Staff & Research
The entomological collections at Carnegie Museum are the continuation of a dream first envisioned by the museum's founder and early director, William Jacob Holland (pictured at right). The collection's historical strength in Lepidoptera results directly from having had active lepidopterists as influential directors over half of the museum's century-long existence. These were Holland and his successor Andrey Avinoff (pictured with Holland below).
Holland was America's great popularizer of butterflies and moths in the first half of this century. Holland's Butterfly Book (1898) and Moth Book (1903) are both still widely used. Holland established the entomological holdings of Carnegie Museum by donation of his private collection exceeding 250,000 specimens. He supported active collectors worldwide, obtaining major collections from previously uncollected regions between 1890 and 1930 through the efforts of W. Doherty, H.H. Smith, H.L. Weber, J. Steinbach, S.M. Klages and many others.
Under Holland's directorship, curator Hugh Kahl was responsible for curation and arrangement of the insect collection in the Section of Insects and Spiders until 1940, with a special emphasis on dragonflies.
During Avinoff's tenure as director (1930s and 1940s), the entomological curators were lepidopterist Walter Sweadner and hymenopterist George Wallace. Sweadner was the first person to attempt comprehensive curation of the already vast Lepidoptera collection, and conducted fundamental research on geographical variation and speciation in wild silkworm moths from the western United States.
Unfortunately, Sweadner died young in 1951. He was replaced by Harry Clench, who became a leading worker on lycaenid butterflies with a special interest in Caribbean taxa. Clench overlapped with another lepidopterist in the 1960s, curator Richard Fox, who published on African and Neotropical butterflies, especially the delicate but diverse ithomiines from South America.
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From the late 1940s to 1979, George Wallace was the primary steward of the non-Lepidoptera collection, conducting research on parasitic chalcid wasps and providing administrative oversight for the sections. Fox died before retirement in 1968, as did Clench in 1979, near the time of Wallace's retirement, leaving the section without a curator for more than a year.
The collections at this time were still in Holland drawers and ancient Schmitt boxes, almost entirely inaccessible for research. This was the collection's darkest hour and Holland's dream was nearly extinguished. In 1980 curator and coleopterist Ginter Ekis was hired and soon thereafter was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to rehouse part of the collection. This grant purchased a compactorized storage system with 4,600 USNM-style drawers and allowed for the hire of dipterist Chen Young and coleopterist Robert Davidson as temporary assistants. Ekis resigned in 1983, and Young and Davidson continued work on the grant.
Lepidopterist John Rawlins was employed as a curator and head of section in 1985. Rawlins requested stewardship of the museum's large mollusk collection, and in addition to arthropods, served that collection from 1985 until the arrival of a new malacogist in 2002. The section changed its name to reflect its broader coverage, becoming the Invertebrate Zoology section.
Collection activity and renovation increased steadily throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, with additional staff as well as the promotion of Young to curatorial rank and Davidson to collection manager. Walter Zanol arrived in 1986, and other staff arrived in the 1990s (former curatorial assistant David Koenig, Jane Hyland, and Robert Androw) and 2000s (Vanessa Verdecia, former web designer Gloria Correa, James Fetzner, former scientific preparator Timothy Tomon, and Hillary Fetzner).
In 1995 the section received a grant from NSF for nearly a million dollars that filled the first compactor with drawers and added additional rooms and a second large compactor system. This was followed in 2000 by yet another large grant from NSF to continue curation and rehousing of the Lepidoptera. At present, there are no empty slots in the collection as drawers to fill have been acquired. Growth of the collection and its use for research and other purposes since 1985 have been at unprecedented levels, and Holland's dream is once again alive and well as the section continues to serve science, conservation, and education in the 21st century.