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My grandfather, John E Stych, as a young man, spend some years in Malawi, Africa working for the mission efforts there. His time there overlapped with WWI and he was co-opted into the war effort as well, which meant he stayed longer than he intended. He was something of an amateur naturalist and while he was there he collected a number of specimens and souvenirs. When I was very small my grandmother had a china cabinet filled with the smaller items and I have memories of sitting on the floor in front of that cabinet and being allowed to play with the more robust items. My grandfather died before I was born so I have no memories of him.

The collection was eventually distributed around the family and I have several items including a box of butterflies he collected. I don't know but I assume this was done with a butterfly net and a way of safely mounting the delicate specimens. Seems a bit destructive nowadays but remember that photography was not as easy as it is today so there were limited options for presenting or even describing what you found.

The box of butterflies I have is one of several. The others were sent to a museum in Wellington. I'm not sure what happened to them after that but when my mother asked about them they could not be found. Still, we have this box.

The box itself is a 'Schmitt box' designed to hold samples pinned to the inside of the box (top and bottom) and latch safely closed. It seems very well made with neat dovetails at the corners. They are in pretty good condition considering they are over 100 years old now. This is mostly because of the quality of the box and the fact it has been kept closed most of that time. The butterflies are labelled in tiny writing. It looks like there was more than one pass at labelling them because there are two types of labels. One type specifies the location and date, the other identifies the butterfly species. The former is printed in ink, the second is in cursive and pencil. Most of the former labels are pinned on the same pin as the butterflies, while the latter are mostly on a separate pin. Possibly the latter were added later.

What I've done here is photograph the top and bottom panels of the box and then edited the image to clarify the names as well as add the obscured former labels. I also made some attempt to look up the names and verify the species. In some cases the species names have been changed in the last hundred years, this happens when things are reclassified. In some others I could not find the species referred to, but most of them were easily found and matched the images on the internet.

So here are the butterflies:

butterflies1

butterflies21

The pinned note on the right hand side of the lower picture was put there by my mother. As far as I know the other labels are my grandfather's writing. There is a piece of Melanits leda (upper specimen) come adrift and is in the upper photograph (top right). I thought it best to leave it alone. There seem to be a couple of specimens missing in the lower photograph (upper left).