Butterflies are members of the order of Lepidoptera, a widespread order of insects adapted to all continental environments; more than 170,000 species have been indexed to date. They have long been popular among collectors due to the beauty of their wings, which are covered in coloured scales.
However, the interest in butterflies is not just aesthetic. The silk-secreting species, the sericigenous butterflies, have also received particular attention. In 1536, Francis I of France granted Lyon the monopoly over the import and trade of silk throughout the French Empire. The Laboratoire d'Études de la Soie - a silk laboratory - was founded in 1884, also in Lyon. Its collections, which were entrusted to the Museum of Natural History in Lyon in 1959, are of great historical and scientific value; they include specimens from all the sericigenous species, cocoons, chrysalides, silk threads and fabrics, herbaria and other documentary material (writings, watercolours).
This collection has been significantly restored and, together with various private collections (in particular the Saturniidae from Claudius Côte, and more recently from Laurent Schwartz), has now become part of the collection at the Musée des Confluences. These collections form one of the most beautiful elements in the "network of life", a permanent exhibition at the museum.