The Titian R. Peale Butterfly and Moth Collection, housed at The Academy of Natural Sciences, is one of the oldest entomological collections in North America.
Titian Ramsay Peale was an early North American naturalist, and the youngest son of the large family of artists and naturalists headed by Charles Willson Peale of Philadelphia. His life was filled with many accomplishments, including as an early explorer, talented artist and illustrator, renowned taxidermist and exhibitor, field-based natural historian, patent examiner and photographic inventor.
Throughout his life, his love of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) remained strong and true, and this insect collection remains a lasting legacy and mirror of his life's accomplishments. The earliest specimens date from when he was a young man in Philadelphia, when he first developed the 'Peale Box' which allowed one to view the specimens from above and below, yet protected them from other insect pests, light and moisture. The last specimens date from 1885, his last year of life, and illustrate a man still enthusiastic about his work even in his ninth decade of life!. The entire collection remains together in nearly 100 boxes, with additional specimens placed in the main collections of The Academy of Natural Sciences and The Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
This wonderful collection was donated to The Academy of Natural Sciences after Peale's death, and remained relatively unstudied for nearly a century. With careful attention to the development of conservation protocols in the 1990s, The Academy of Natural Sciences, with generous support from several foundations, undertook a major project to restore the boxes, identify and digitally image all the specimens, and make this information available to the world through the internet. We think that Titian Peale himself would appreciate how materials conservation science has been used to maintain his wonderful collection in its original form, while photography has made his collection accessible to everyone.