Natural History Museum reopens Butterfly Pavilion
Nearly 1,000 butterflies of various sizes, shapes and colors can be seen gliding through the air inside the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion, which made its long awaited return on Saturday.
Museum goers wandered through the beloved seasonal “Butterflies Alive!” exhibit on Saturday, stopping to admire the nine different species of delicate butterflies. Yellow and black spotted Malachite butterflies were seen perched on foliage throughout the exhibit, while the intricacies of the Painted Lady’s wings could be admired even from afar. The pavilion, a fan favorite among regular museum visitors, will remain open through Sept. 6.
Kim Zsembik, the butterfly pavilion senior manager, said visitors who have seen the exhibit in the past may notice some new changes this year, including a new layout for the exhibit and even a few new species of butterflies.
“When we’re creating this exhibit, we were thinking about all the guests that are coming back,” Ms. Zsembik told the News-Press. “So when they’re finally here, it’s a joy to just hear what they think, see if they like it and try and impress them a little bit every year. We try to mix it up every year too and just make some slight changes so that it does feel like a good new experience for like members who have been members for a long time and remember it, keeping the conditional element of butterflies flying around, but maybe mixing up the kind of plants we’re putting in. We’ve updated the flow of the pavilion, so it kind of feels different.”
To follow COVID-19 safety precautions, guests are phased into the exhibit every few minutes and the pavilion is split into nine sections. Guests get a few minutes at each section and move to the next phase at the sound of a bell every two to three minutes.
Guests are greeted by friendly volunteers throughout the exhibit, many of whom returned this year now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting.
One volunteer, Veronica Aguirre-Dutton, started volunteering with the museum for the first time this weekend. A butterfly enthusiast and activist in her spare time, Ms. Aguirre-Dutton said she wanted to volunteer to share her passion for butterflies with others.
With the population of Monarch butterflies in Santa Barbara dropping significantly in recent years, Ms. Aguirre-Dutton said she is grateful to use the opportunity to educate people about the importance of butterflies in the local ecosystem.
“I always tell people, if you enjoy your avocado toast and honey, you should care about the butterflies and the bees,” Ms. Aguirre-Dutton told the News-Press. “This is really just a special opportunity to bring that awareness to the community about how important (butterflies) are.”
Many families made their way through the exhibit on Saturday, admiring the colorful wings of the butterflies alongside their children, some of which were dressed in T-shirts or dresses with butterfly designs.
Museum members Jan and Anna Roestel visited the museum with their children, Arwen and Xander on Saturday, making a special visit to see the butterflies. Ms. Roestel said the family visited the museum last week and decided to come back this weekend to see the Butterfly Pavilion back in action.
“I knew the kids would love it,” Ms. Roestel told the News-Press.
After going more than a year without visiting the museum due to the pandemic, the Roestel family agreed that it’s good to be back. The couple’s daughter, Arwen, even donned a butterfly dress for the occasion.
“It’s nice to be outside, it’s so beautiful here, it’s just lovely,” Ms. Roestel said. “It feels almost like normal.”