Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
If it walks, crawls or flies, there’s a good chances you will see it on display at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in the Old New Orleans Customs House. Utilizing the full 23,000 square feet of the historic, white marble columnned structure in the 400 block of Canal Street, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is the largest free-standing museum in the United States devoted to the 900,000-plus known species of insects and their relatives. It gives visitors up-close-and-personal glimpses into the lives of selected members of the largest grouping of living, visible, mobile organisms on earth. Featured are thousands of live insects, mounted specimens, interactive experiences and trained, expert personnel on hand to interpret the exhibits.
Backstory and Context
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is an insectarium and entomology museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. With more than 50 live exhibits and numerous multimedia elements, the 23,000-square-foot (2,100 m2) facility is the largest free-standing American museum dedicated to insects.The Butterfly Garden and Insectarium opened on June 13, 2008. In 2009, it was awarded the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Science Center. Part of the Audubon Nature Institute complex, it is located on the first floor of the U.S. Custom House Federal Building.Field Camp introduces you to the exciting world of arthropods (animals – including insects -- having segmented bodies and six or more jointed legs Life Underground shrinks you down to the size of the bugs themselves, with oversized exhibitory, gigantic animatronic insects and a trap door spider surprise. Insects of New Orleans uses the example of a French Quarter street to highlight local insect pests like the Formosan subterranean termite, love bugs, mosquitoes, the cockroach and more. Cooking Show and Cultural Café offers an adventure in eating. A zany chef will introduce you to the joy of cooking with insects, and everyone gets to sample the treats – if you think you can handle it! If not, you can opt for more traditional fare in the insect-themed café Louisiana Swamp examines native insects and arachnids (spiders) that call the unique Louisiana swamps their home. Set around a recreated swamp habitat, this exhibit offers guided live animal encounters and features life-sized cypress trees.
Awards Night brings you into the middle of the action in this multi-sensory theater experience, featuring celebrity voices, animatronic hosts, gigantic high-definition film and special effects seating. Hall of Fame showcases preserved examples of the biggest, fastest and most impressive insects. The traditional wood display cases in this area feature amazing insects in one of the most architecturally significant rooms of the old U.S. Custom House. Metamorphosis is one of the most fascinating transformations that occurs in certain animal/insect species. This exhibit illustrates insect courtship, mating and life cycles. A working husbandry lab shows you how insects reproduce and grow. Butterflies in Flight recreates a unique Japanese garden with free-flying butterflies of various species. Visitor interaction with the butterflies provides amazing, up-close encounters for all ages. The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium promises fun and education for all, from “roach races” to butterflies emerging from cocoons to talks from experts “in the field.”
Audubon Nature Institute has its roots in historic Audubon Park, a natural setting for family recreation since the 1800s, and Audubon Zoological Gardens, which evolved from a single flight cage built in 1916 to a 58-acre jewel ranking among the nation’s best zoos. Along the way, Audubon grew into a respected steward for economic leadership, conservation and environmental education. Strong public and private support drove the Zoo’s phoenix-like rise in the 1970s when it replaced cramped cages with lush natural habitat, evolving from an “animal ghetto” to an “urban oasis.” The success of the Zoo provided impetus for future Audubon projects, inspiring enduring community support and commitment. Audubon Nature Institute created Woldenberg Riverfront Park in 1989, giving the city its first direct access to the downtown Mississippi riverfront and providing a beautiful setting for Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (1990), where visitors explore fascinating aquatic environs ranging from the Great Maya Reef to the Amazon Rainforest. Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, a 1,200-acre sanctuary where threatened animals live and breed undisturbed, debuted in 1993. Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, an 86-acre preserve within the New Orleans city limits, joined the family in 1994.
Entergy IMAX Theatre opened in 1995 at the Aquarium, utilizing the most advanced motion picture technology available. In 1996, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species opened to develop assisted reproduction techniques to breed disappearing species. Also that year, Audubon Wilderness Park began operating as an educational “field” resource for life science study by school, camp, and scout groups. In 2008, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium became the first major attraction to open in post-Katrina New Orleans, signaling that recovery was underway. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 proved Audubon was capable of nimble response to yet another disaster. Working closely with state and federal agencies, Audubon created a kind of sea turtle triage facility at the Audubon Aquatic Center on the Survival Center campus, setting protocol and focusing expertise and resources on caring for several hundred turtles injured in the spill.
In 2012, Audubon entered into an historic partnership with San Diego Zoo Global to create a new program for breeding disappearing Zoo animals on the site of the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. Other new programming at the Survival Center included Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F), dedicated to the conservation of U.S. fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, implementation began after years of careful planning and a fair amount of red tape to rebuild Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, which was destroyed as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Adubon Nature Institute is committed to “Celebrating the Wonders of Nature” every day in this city where celebrations are woven into the basic fabric of life. Each member of the Audubon family is unique, but essential to the overall character of the collection. Our success is measured in such tangibles as visitor attendance, the births of disappearing wildlife, the substantial economic impact on our community, and the smiles on the faces of the children who visit us all year long.