федеральное государственное автономное образовательное учреждение высшего образования
«Самарский национальный исследовательский университет имени академика С.П. Королева»
sovainfo.ru: Fluttering Interactive Showroom. Smart Butterfly House Presented at Samara University

sovainfo.ru: Fluttering Interactive Showroom. Smart Butterfly House Presented at Samara University

Самарский университет

The exhibition includes more than 200 butterflies from the collection of the University’s professor of ecology, botany, and environmental protection

10.02.2023 2023-03-14
A unique multimedia museum Smart Butterfly House was presented at Samara University on February 8, the Day of Russian Science. The exhibition includes more than 200 butterflies from the collection of the University’s Professor of Ecology, Botany, and Environmental Protection, Doctor of Biological Sciences Sergey Sachkov. It is not simply a museum in its usual form, but an interactive area where everyone can see a butterfly under a microscope and watch its transformation from a chrysalis with the help of VR technology.

From concept to implementation
The journey from the concept of ashowroom with virtual reality elements to its implementation took just over a year. The idea to present butterflies in digital format came to the University President Victor Soyfer after he got acquainted with the huge collection of Sergey Sachkov. The initiative was supported by the Governor Dmitry Azarov. The region’s head suggested using modern technology to make the collection appealing not only for scientists, but also for all residents of the region, as well as tourists.
In Samara University, the Butterfly House is located in the building at 1 Akademika Pavlova St., on the first floor.
According to Professor Sergey Sachkov, only a small part of the university’s collection could be presented in the Butterfly House — the greater part is stored in the archives.
“Here you can see species that are included in the Red Book of the Samara Region, there are also species from exotic places, such as New Guinea, islands of Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and Africa. VR technology will certainly make studying the Lepidoptera more entertaining, but it cannot replace scientific work.”
Elena Inyushkina, Assistant Professor  at the Department of Human and Animal Physiology at Samara University and Head  of the Smart Butterfly House, explained that the hall with a total area of 90 square meters is divided into two zones. The first one is an interactive exhibition where visitors can see the Lepidoptera both as collection specimens, including digital ones, and as live butterflies. 
“In the hall you can see butterflies from the collection of Sergey Anatolievich Sachkov,” says Elena Inyushkina. “There are also digital installations with butterflies from Samara Region and an insectarium (a special room designed for keeping and breeding insects). They can be observed through a window. For instance, the process of changing from a chrysalis to a butterfly may appear interesting. The insectarium maintains a certain temperature and humidity comfortable for exotic species of Lepidoptera living in the tropics.”
With a 3D butterfly in hand
This part of the exhibition comprises interactive zones where VR goggles can be used to examine the flight of insects in detail, and VR gloves to take a 3D butterfly in your hands and feel the flap of its delicate wings. An interactive table with photographs gives a deeper insight into Sergey Sachkov’s collection and more profound knowledge of different species. So far, 100 butterflies are digitally represented here.
“Guests of the Butterfly House can put on VR glasses to travel to Samarskaya Luka national park. There you can see butterflies in 3D. So far, only a small part of Sergey Sachkov’s collection has been digitized. Digital insect specimens are featured on the Smart Butterfly House portal. In the future, we plan to almost fully digitize the Samara Lepidoptera collection. This is a meticulous work, which will last more than one year,” explained Elena Inyushkina.
According to her, the butterflies need to be saved digitally, because the specimens of the collection are fragile and require certain storage conditions. The loss of each of them is irretrievable. After digitizing the most valuable species, including 42 listed in the Red Book of the Samara Region, the collection remained in the laboratory.
Collection specimens on display will be periodically replaced as the butterflies fade over time. Light kills the pigments, making the wings pale and monotonous. University staff plans to catch butterflies in the region and prepare new exhibits.
By the way, there are a little less than two thousand species of butterflies in the Samara Region — 1,988 (in Russia — over 10 thousand species). The province is a variegated region in terms of landscapes and natural conditions, so there is a great variety of insects. There are about 1,600 species of butterflies in Samarskaya Luka alone.
In the role of an entomologist
In the second room of the House there are laboratory tables. Here schoolchildren and biology students will be able to try themselves at entomology and work with special equipment: microscopes, microphotography, light traps (portable light sources to which butterflies fly during field expeditions).
The museum will feature a lecture hall where teachers and students of the Faculty of Biology will share their knowledge with guests of the Butterfly House. Quizzes, shows of popular science films, lectures, excursions — the curators of the new space have come up with many formats of work with visitors. They are really eager to show how rich and colorful the world of biology is, using butterflies as an example.
A Smart Butterfly House is in fact a tradition in the world of entomology. Live butterflies as exhibits became popular in England in the late 1970s. The first butterfly house appeared in Coconut Creek, Florida, USA. Today such houses exist on every continent. However, the Butterfly House in Samara is one of a kind.
“In Russia, there are museums where you can see butterfly collections, and there are insectariums with insects. We tried to combine the two. Our Smart Butterfly House is an interactive space that combines conventional museum means of presentation and VR technologies,” adds Elena Inyushkina. “Along with that, you can connect with live nature — fluttering butterflies, quite large and rare ones, untypical of our region. The possibility to hold lectures and lab classes here turns the Butterfly House into a multipurpose center.”
The largest in the Volga Federal District and the fifth in Russia
It took more than 40 years for Professor  Sergey Sachkov to build a truly unique collection of butterflies that comprises about 100 thousand specimens of Lepidoptera, including 20 he discovered, and three named after him.
The Samara butterfly collection is the largest in the Volga Federal District and one of the five most complete collections in Russia. There are no butterflies from Australia and Antarctica only: it is forbidden to export insects from the Green Continent, and the ice-covered continent is the only place on the planet which they do not inhabit.
According to the professor, the collection includes more than 5 thousand species of butterflies from 150 countries. These are the states of Europe, South and North America, Central Asia, and Africa. There are rare specimens from Indonesia, Madagascar, the Bering Islands, and New Zealand. The largest are “Brazilians”: a male and a female of the Thysania agrippina species with a wingspan of about 30 cm. The smallest is the one with a wingspan of about 3.5 mm from the pigmy moths family.
Source: sovainfo.ru
Photo: Olesya Orina, Yulia Rubtsova