University of Iowa Adds Insect Exhibit from Iowa Wesleyan

by Brian Wilson
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What may be the largest collection of Iowa insects ever assembled was at risk of being dumped in a dumpster, but it’s being rescued and preserved by the University of Iowa. Cindy Opitz, director of research collections at the U-I Pentacrest Museums, says the Iowa City institution has acquired an extensive natural history collection from the former Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, which closed earlier this year.

It’s a priceless collection, she says, as it provides a valuable assortment of specimens that offer insights into Iowa’s rich ecological legacy. 

The insect collection is housed in about 600 separate drawers and represents 22 orders and 462 families of insects, essentially, an entomologist’s dream.

The collection was the result of what was called the Iowa Insect Survey, which set out over several decades to discover all insect varieties in all 99 Iowa counties. Opitz says the U-I is applying for a grant from the National Science Foundation to upgrade how the massive collection is being housed.

The U-I did not have to pay anything for the collection, according to Opitz, but only had to pay for the cost of transporting it to Iowa City from Mount Pleasant. She says there’s a plan to create an insect exhibit that will offer Pentacrest museum visitors an immersive and educational experience. Had the U-I not stepped in, she says it’s possible this broad viewpoint of Iowa history would have been hauled to the landfill.

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