Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.
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54 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 7 the Wellesley Historical Society has served as the keeper of the Denton Butterfly Collection since the 1960s. Still stored in the drawers with which they were donated, the butterflies, moths, and other insects have sat quietly within the walls of the Society for the past half century. Their story is a fascinating one. They were collected, mounted in a specially-patented box, and put up for sale by The Denton Brothers, a company formed in Wellesley in 1895 by William D. "Willie" and R. Winsford "Winsey" Denton. The specimens in the Society's collection were the ones that didn't get sold, and were passed down to the next generation of family members. Over the years, the butterflies have been displayed and photographed only a handful of times, as they are extremely light-sensitive. Therefore, the general public hasn't been able to fully enjoy their beauty, much less learn from them. That is, until June 2016. Last winter, the Society was approached by Carolyn Collins, elementary science coordinator for the Wellesley Public Schools. She had heard about the butterflies and thought the students could learn from them as part of their studies of variation and adaptation. Collins developed lesson plans for the third-graders. In their lessons, the students learn about butterflies' various defense strategies, including surprise, hide, misdirect, and warn. They discov- ered that certain characteristics of a butterfly, such as having long tails, help them escape the grasp of a predator. While the students were learning about butterfly defense strategies in the classroom, Collins worked with Kathleen Fahey, curator of the Wellesley Historical Society, to identify which butter- flies from the Denton collection would represent each of the four defense strate- gies that the students learned about. After spending hours carefully viewing the hundreds of butterflies, Collins and Fahey chose three sets that would travel to the elementary schools in Wellesley. While only one set is needed at a time, it was decided that the same set of but- terflies should not be taken out every year, due to the light they would be exposed to. Therefore, the three sets will rotate each year. When June approached, Fahey and other staff members of the Society pack- aged each butterfly in its own archival wrapping, and carefully placed each of them in a padded box. This ensures that the butterflies are not damaged, which is particularly important for such a remark- able collection. The butterflies were brought to all seven Wellesley elementary schools over the course of three weeks. Before the stu- dents viewed them, Collins gave them information about the butterfly collection Public Schools and Wellesley Historical Society Collaborate to Give Students Access to Denton Butterfly Collection [ forum ] E R I C A D U M O N T writer and executive director of the Wellesley Historical Society