Updated: May 3, 2021
The Transcona Museum is home to a large natural history collection housing 8,000 Lepidoptera specimens and 1,200 eggs from many different bird species. These specimens were collected by Christopher Stephen Quelch (1898-1986), an educator and a naturalist. He began his schooling at the University of Manitoba for a year, and subsequently gained his Bachelors in Art and Education degrees after attending summer school and evening classes. He was a successful teacher and principal in the Transcona area. He taught at Birtle School and Whytewold Beach School, then at Transcona Collegiate (?-1953) where he eventually became principal after he worked in Westview School (1953-1956) in the same capacity. He retired in 1964 then worked for three years as a guidance counsellor at West Kildonan Collegiate. Along with his many years of teaching experience, C.S. Quelch was also active in the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Transcona Teachers’ Association (President), Transcona Parks Board (Chairman), Transcona Stadium Commission, and Suburban Principals’ Association (President). His involvement did not end at the schools. Without his help, our museum would not have this beautiful and extensive collection.
His knowledge and affinity for collecting began in his youth where he would climb trees and collect bird’s eggs. He began collecting butterflies and moths in the 1940s and became a respected charter member of The Lepidopterists' Society as of December 1953. In his career as a naturalist, C.S. Quelch took great notes on all things that could have been considered important such as what the weather conditions were, where he found the specimens, and what condition they were found in. The museum is lucky enough to be home to his notes so that we can look back and see his process and meticulousness.
The museum’s collection boasts of many different species of bird’s eggs, butterflies, moths, and insects. We house some rare species of butterflies and moths, as well as the more common ones, from all over the world. For example, in our collection, we have Glass Wing moths, a Luna moth, and a blue Morpho butterfly, just to name a few. We also have two species of bird’s wing butterflies, the Ornithoptera victoriae and the Ornithoptera priamus urvillianus, that when they mate produce one of the rarest and most valuable butterflies in the world, the Ornithoptera allotei; the males of this species retail for approximately US $7,000. We have one of the largest species of moth known as the Atlas Moth with a wingspan that can reach up to 25cm. Our egg collection boasts of eggs from birds all over the world. We also house eggs from birds native to Manitoba such as the Red Wing Blackbird and the Great Horned Owl. All pictured at the end of this blog.
The museum regularly presents several education programs that feature our butterfly and moth collection that are Manitoba-curriculum connected!
In Part 2, we'll be talking about how Mr. Quelch collected and preserved all these specimens and how they're taken care of here at the museum. So, stay tuned!
If you want information about how to make your backyard into a Butterfly Friendly Habitat check out the link below.
Christopher Stephen Quelch Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives.
Goldsborough, Gordon. "Memorable Manitobans: Christopher Stephen “Steve” Quelch (1898-1986.)" Manitoba Historical Society. 31 March 2017.
Nichols, Lori. "C. S. Quelch: Principal, teacher, lepidopterist … oologist?!?” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 August 2002, page 216.
Stephen Quelch Collection, Transcona Museum Natural History.
"The Lepidopterists' Society LIST OF MEMBERS." The Lepidopterist's News 7, nos. 5-6. 1953 Dec, page 188.