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, Joe DeLuca
For 50 years, Dr. James Pearce collected around 16,000 butterfly specimens, some from here in Utah and some more exotic specimens in his travels around the world. Saturday, his family donated the amazing collection to the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Natural History Museum of Utah will open a massive one-day-only butterfly exhibit Wednesday, showcasing 16,000 donated butterflies.

The butterflies were donated by the family of Dr. James Pearce, a citizen-scientist who spent the past 50 years collecting them in Utah and around the world before he died.

"He loved to be outside, he loved nature, he was a scientist," his wife, Virginia, said. "So from the time when he was a little boy, he was collecting and classifying and spreading and developing this wonderful hobby."

Pearce pinned and documented each the butterflies he collected himself, the museum said, and his work is a rare look at the local butterfly population and the dramatic change it has undergone in the past 30 years due to increased construction and diminished plant life.

“It is truly an honor that the Pearce family trusts us with his remarkable collection,” said Christy Bills, the museum's collections manager of invertebrates.

“Documentation of the butterflies along the Wasatch Front is not that extensive. So, the breadth and depth of this collection, in terms of time and specimens, helps us tell the story of our ecosystem here in the valley.”

The exhibit will be open one night only, on Wednesday from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah, 301 Wakara Way. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for youths ages 13-24 and seniors ages 65 and older, and $6 for children ages 3-12.

More information is available at nhmu.utah.edu.

E-mail: [email protected]