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Collection Summary

Collection Title
Fountaine-Neimy Butterfly Collection
Unique Identifier
NWHCM : 1940.174
Outstanding collection of over 23,000 butterflies and caterpillars, most of which were bred and are therefore in exceptionally fine condition. There are five types (specimen on which the description and naming of a species is based) in the collection. The collection resulted from a life-time's collecting by Margaret Fountaine and her partner Khalil Neimy, indeed the last drawer contains gaps as she had not quite finished it before she left on her final collecting trip. She travelled all over the world, including the tropics, from 1892 to 1940 breeding and collecting specimens. The data that accompany the specimens provide information about the fauna of areas that have changed or are under threat. In addition to the obvious research value of the collection, it is frequently used as subject matter for art students. The collection is fully catalogued with individual database records.

The collection is not normally displayed but is housed in a suite of drawers in the Shirehall Study Centre. However, for the first time ever, all of the butterflies will be on show from September 2006 to February 2007 to mark the publication of the first biography of Margaret Fountaine. Because the colours of the butterflies can fade rapidly, their exposure to light must be minimised, therefore each butterfly is on display for one week only and each week over 1000 new butterflies will be displayed.

In addition to the collection, Fountaine bequeathed a sealed trunk 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 1939, the year before she died. At the front of each journal is a photograph of Margaret Fountaine taken when the journal was started. Extracts from the journals have been published, and they have been the subject of several academic theses on the Victorian lady traveller, women collectors, women writers, 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.

Margaret Fountaine painted the caterpillars of the butterflies she reared and her sketchbooks are in the Entomology Library of the Natural History Museum
  • 23270 specimens and 12 journals
Star Item(s)
three type specimens named for those close to Fountaine
Date range of collection
Accumulation Dates
1892 - 1940
Suggested Audience
general interest,primary education (age 4-11),secondary education (age 10-16),sixth form college,further education (age 16+),higher education,research
Associated People or Organisations
Associated Places
Viewing the collection
Material which is not on display can be viewed by appointment, telephone the Access Officer on 01603 493640
Details also available

Location Details

Norwich Castle Museum And Art Gallery
Castle Meadow Norwich NR1 3JU United Kingdom
Open Map
+44 (0)1603 493625
+44 (0)1603 493623 
Building Information
Norwich Castle Museum, as its name suggests, is housed in the keep of the former Norman Castle which became a Victorian prison. Galleries were added to the keep in the 1890s when the building was converted into a museum. The Museum sits atop the Castle Mound, dominating the Norwich skyline and is reached by a medieval bridge or via a lift from the Castle gardens. Visitors can ascend to the battlements for a guided tour taking in a panoramic view of the city, and descend to the former dungeons. Adjoining the Castle Museum is the Shirehall Study Centre (former courthouse). Here, by appointment, collections can be explored in more depth and objects which are not on display can be visited.
Collections Overview
Norwich Castle, built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, was used as a prison from the 14th century and became Norfolk’s main museum in 1894. It has designated collections of fine and decorative art, archaeology and natural history and includes the best collections of paintings by the Norwich School of Artists and the world's largest collection of ceramic teapots. Search Norfolk Museums database and NOAH (Norfolk Online Access to Heritage) can be searched on-line for libraries, museums and record office. Currently, this includes the entire library catalogue, over 200,000 museum objects, about 16,000 digitised photographs, the index to over 23,000 local newspaper articles and over 63,000 archive records. For Stanger's Hall see Social History.
Display Overview
The Castle Keep has elaborate carvings in the stonework of the entrance, garderobes, fighting gallery, spiral stone staircase. Visitors can explore life in the Norman keep by touch screens, computer animation and a giant model of the keep. There are displays of when it was a prison with original graffiti. The keep also has displays of Norwich Silver, Norwich Civic Regalia, a re-creation of a medieval street scene, models of when it was being built and hands-on exhibits. There is an Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery, including a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon grave site and a collection of jewellery; a Boudica Gallery with displays of Iceni treasure including gold torcs and a re-creation of an Iceni chariot; the Egyptian Gallery has an Egyptian tomb with mummies. The Fitch Room contains an eclectic collection of objects from the Ethnographic, Decorative Art and Archaeological collections, housed in Victorian wooden cabinets. The Art Galleries show 17th - 20th century paintings on show English watercolours, Dutch landscapes and modern British paintings including Norwich School artists. Look at Lowestoft porcelain, glass and English silver and Twinings Teapot Gallery with ceramic teapots. The Natural History Galleries are a favourite with families and include mounted birds and mammals and dioramas of Norfolk bird habitats.
For details of other collections held at the same location: See the location record

Additional Collection Information

Accrual Status
accrual policy : closed, accrual method : deposit, accrual periodicity : closed
Related Publications
Management Information (Type)
  • Collection.
  • Museum.
Collection Creator(s)
Collection Collector(s)
Collection Custodians(s)
Associated Collection(s)
  • Super Collection: Insect and Spider Collection
  • Related Collection: Natural History Archive Collection

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