NORFOLK Museums Service
South American Morpho butterflies

Fountaine-Neimy Collection

This collection resulted from a life-time's collecting by Margaret Fountaine and her companion Khalil Neimy. She travelled all over the world from 1892 to 1940 breeding and collecting specimens. The collection contains 22,000 butterflies, most of which were bred from eggs or caterpillars, and are therefore in exceptionally fine condition. There are five types in the collection. (These are specimens from which the species was originally described and named.)

Margaret Fountaine painted the caterpillars of the butterflies she reared, (her sketch-books are in the Entomology Library of the Natural History Museum), and researchers often consult the collection to check the identity of the caterpillars in her paintings. She travelled all over the tropics, collecting in many difficult places, and the data that accompany her specimens are providing information about the fauna of areas that have changed or are under threat. Within the last year the collection has been searched by workers from the Smithsonian Institute and the Natural History Museum, for data from Amazonia and Madagascar respectively.

Margaret FountaineIn addition to the collection, Fountaine bequeathed a sealed box which was to remain unopened until 1978. When it was opened, it was found to contain twelve journals detailing her life from 1878, when she was aged fifteen, until she died in 1940. Extracts from the journals have been published, and considerable interest generated in the collection and the journals. Visitors from all over the world have come to study them, and the journals have been the subject of several academic theses on the Victorian lady traveller, women collectors, women writers, etc., as well as a video and a stage play. This combination of a scientifically important collection, and sociologically significant literature is not unique, but there are few naturalists, let alone Victorian lady naturalists, who have collected in and written about sixty countries on six continents over fifty years.

Fountaine, M.E. 1980 Love among the Butterflies. London: Collins

Fountaine, M.E. 1986 Butterflies and Late Loves. London: Collins

Irwin, A.G. 1978 Of butterflies and broken hearts ... Of bishops, bugs and things. Antenna 2, 72-73, 78-79.

Scott-Stokes, N. 2006 Wild and Fearless: The Life of Margaret Fountaine. London: Peter Owen