Birdwing Butterfly from Papua New Guinea

This image of a birdwing butterfly, included in the National Academies’ permanent art collection, is part of Rosamond Purcell’s larger body of work in which she photographed specimens at natural history museums around the world. Sculptor, photographer, installation artist, and curator, Purcell has worked in many capacities, from collage artist to collaborator with the late paleontologist and science historian Stephen Jay Gould. Purcell’s photos have appeared in major publications throughout the world, and in numerous exhibitions at museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

With a wingspan of up to one foot, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing of Papua New Guinea is the largest butterfly in the world. This brilliantly-colored species is very rare and is usually seen only in museums and collector’s cabinets. Although protected by law, birdwings are continually threatened as their rainforest habitat is destroyed to make way for plantations.

Rosamond Purcell’s latest book, Bookworm (Quantuck Lane Press distributed by W. W. Norton) is scheduled for release in October of 2006. In celebration of the new publication, Kathleen Ewing Gallery will feature an exhibition of Purcell’s latest work, September 8 to October 28, 2006 in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

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Cite this Article

Issues, . “Archives.” Issues in Science and Technology 23, no. 1 (Fall 2006).

Vol. XXIII, No. 1, Fall 2006