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Eulàlia Gassó Miracle

Entomology collections - Lepidoptera (Rhopalocera)


Email: eulalia.gassomiracle@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71 751 9322
Room number: D3.43, Darwinweg


I have always had an avid interest in natural history in general and in insects in particular. This led me to study Biology and later on, to work at Naturalis, where I currently combine the management of the Naturalis butterfly collection with research on the history of 19th century natural history. My main focus is on pre-Darwinian classification, nomenclature and natural philosophy in zoology.


After my study in Biological Systems at the University of Barcelona I worked for two years at the Science Museum Cosmocaixa in Barcelona. Since 2001 I hold a position as collection manager at Naturalis. After several years of experience with insects and museum collections, in particular with the Coleoptera collection, I started my training as a forensic entomologist in 2012 under the supervision of J. Huijbregts. Currently I am the Collection Manager of the Rhopalocera collection (butterflies), one of the most beautiful and interesting collections of the world. 

In 2005 I started researching the scientific work of C.J. Temminck (1778-1858), the founder and first director of this museum, then the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, the RMNH. His views on classification and geographical distribution where decisive in his understanding of the natural world and for the way he managed the museum collection. By putting  his work in the context of his time, I aim to better understand how Temminck’s work and the RMNH influenced the birth of the discipline of taxonomy.

Autumn leaf, Doleschallia bisaltide (Cramer, [1777]), Nymphalidae. Naturalis collection.


Collection interest

My curatorial responsibilities include the management (acquisition, development, archive), care (storage management, preparation, restoration) and accessibility (publication, data capture and loan policy) of the butterfly collection.

The Leiden collection has a long and rich history, reaching back to the 18th century. The collection contains approximately 900,000 specimens stored in 18.000 drawers. In 2010, three Dutch natural history collections were merged to form the Naturalis Biodiversity Center Leiden (NCB): the Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum (former Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, RMNH), the Zoölogisch Museum Amsterdam (ZMA) and the Wageningen University collections (WAU). Each had its own geographical coverage, well represented areas in the butterfly collection are Southeast Asia, Surinam and Guyana, the Palaearctic region and Africa. 

The oldest specimens came to Leiden with the collections of Joan Calkoen and Joan Raye Heer van Breukelenwaert, among others. These collections include specimens described by Pieter Cramer (1721-1776) and Caspar Stoll (??-1795) in Cramer’s De Uitlandsche Kapellen, voorkomende in de drie Waereld-Deelen Asia, Africa en America [1775-] 1779-1782. This work on exotic Lepidoptera followed the novel taxonomic system by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) for naming and classifying animals. The specimens from these collections can be recognized by the round labels added by RMNH staff in the beginning of the 19th century:


Other relevant collections housed in Leiden are those of:

  • C.G.C. Reinwardt (1771-1854); Dutch East Indies
  • members of the Natuurkundige Commissie (1820–1850), like H. Kuhl, J.C. van Hasselt and S. Müller; Dutch East Indies
  • C.L.R. von Blume (1796 –1862); Java
  • Ph.F. von Siebold (1796 –1866); Japan
  • J.H. Jurriaanse (1867–1940); tropical, mainly Indonesia
  • J.M.A. van Groenendael (1896-1980); South East Asia, mainly Java, Flores and Bali.
  • G. Hulstaert (1900 - 1990); Dutch East Indies
  • J.A.W. Lucas  (1926-2009); Palaearctic and tropical, including Africa.
  • C. Eisner (1890-1981); Parnassiinae
  • Y. Kawasaki (1953-2010); genus Parnassius


Parnassius nomion Fischer de Waldheim, 1823. Kawasaki collection, Naturalis.

The Naturalis collection is rich in type specimens thanks to the dedicated work of former curators and associate researchers, like S.C. Snellen van Vollenhoven (1816-1880), R. van Eecke (1886-1975), W.K.J. Roepke (1882-1961), B.J. Lempke (1901-1993) and Rienk de Jong.



natural history, material culture, cultural heritage, lepidoptera



Papua Insects Foundation 

Contributor to the Papua Insects Foundation and its website www.papua-insects.nl, an association founded in 2006 by Rob de Vos. Member of the Editorial Board of Suara Serangga Papua (SUGAPA), "Voice of Papuan Insects", a non-profit journal by Kelompok Entomologi Papua (KEP).

Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives

I am the Project Officer for the project Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives. This project aims to to develop a digital environment that will allow access to handwritten and illustrated archives and connect heterogeneous archival content to other digital sources. My tasks include to provide sets of documents from the digitized archive of the Natuurkundige Commissie to the research team; to provide expertise and background knowledge on the taxonomy, nomenclature and research methods of the nineteenth century, and to coordinate the validation of the scientific data retrieved from the archive by the developed platform.

The project will be centred around one of the top collections of Naturalis Biodiversity Center: the archive and collection of the Natuurkundige Commissie, which contains a rich verbal and pictorial account of nature, cultures and economics in the Indonesian archipelago (1820-1850). The researchers will use an advanced system for handwriting and image recognition (Monk), complemented with contextual information on species, locations and habitats. Naturalis’ taxonomic expertise, in combination with history of science methods, will be used to refine the system further. The outcome of the project will allow Brill to offer the system as an online service for the heritage sector. This will serve both curators of illustrated handwritten archives and researchers who wish to further the understanding of these collections. The application for the project was submitted jointly by the  Leiden Centre of Data Science (LCDS) Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Studies (LIACS), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Groningen University, Twente University and Brill Publishers (as partner from the creative industry). (source: http://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/research/research-projects/science/making-sense-of-illustrated-handwritten-archives )

De Vlinderstichting

In 2015 De Vlinderstichting celebrated the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the large copper, Lycaena dispar, in The Netherlands. This butterfly had been considered extinct since 1864 as a result of the draining of wet fenlands for farming and agriculture. The Dutch population belongs to a unique subspecies, batavus. The celebration acts for its discovery included a symposium, an exhibition, excursions and the publication of a book on the history of this discovery, by Caspar Jansen. We provided historical and biological information, as well as pictures of, amongst others, the first specimens collected in 1915, kept in Naturalis. 

The large copper is still gravely endangered because of habitat loss. More information can be found here (in Dutch): Grote vuurvlinder.

Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural

Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Boletín de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural. Sección Aula, Museos y Colecciones de Ciencias Naturales. 2014-present.

Public outreach

Education & Scientific Communication

Public talks on entomology, museology and history of science:

  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center
  • MuseumJeugdUniversiteit
  • Nederlandse Entomologische Vereniging
  • Belgisch-Nederlands genootschap voor wetenschaps- en universiteitsgeschiedenis

Academic teaching

Occasional guest lectures on (forensic) entomology, history of science and museology:

  • University of Amsterdam, Leiden & Groningen
  • Netherlands School of Public and Occupational Health
  • Dutch Police Academy
  • Reinwardt Academy


Research interest


History of natural history collections

I study and document the origin, ownership and management histories of the musem collections and archives from 1750 onward. This research has resulted in several publications on type specimens kept in Naturalis, as well as in a growing digital collection of historical labels. Curatorial work often leads to very interesting findings. I record some of them in the MUSEUM CHRONICLES, my site about the history of the Naturalis collections.


Handwritting of W. de Haan, curator of Invertebrates at the RMNH between 1823 and 1846.

History of 19th century natural history; pre-Darwinian zoological classification

During the first half of the 19th century, scientists debated heatedly about important theoretical and philosophical issues. Those devoted to natural history were confronted with quite thorny questions: Is there a natural system to classify animals? Why are species distributed on earth as they are? Are species fixed or can they change into other species? Where is the fine line that separates species from variations? Pre-Darwinian naturalists were struggling to solve these issues and some of them did it in a very creative manner. I study the works of C.J, Temminck (1778-1858), founder and first director of the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (RMNH, now Naturalis Biodiversity Center) to elucidate his role in answering all these questions, as well as to put the birth and development of the RMNH in the context of its time. I focus mainly on the type- and the species-concept, the origin and fixity of the species and the meaning of variations in pre-Darwinian zoology.

This project is being carried out with the support of Naturalis, the History of Astronomy group at the Leiden Observatory (Leiden University) and the Institute for History and Foundations of Science (Utrecht University).

C.J. Temminck (1778-1858).

 Temminck’s manuscripts, Naturalis archives.


Caspers M., Willemse L., Gassó Miracle E., van Nieukerken E.J. van (2019) Butterflies in bags: permanent storage of Lepidoptera in glassine envelopes. Nota Lepidopterologica 42(1): 1-16. https://doi.org/10.3897/nl.42.28654

Stork L., Weber A., Gassó Miracle E., Verbeek, F., Plaat A., Herik J. van den, Wolstencroft K. (2018). Semantic annotation of natural history collections. Journal of Web Semantics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.websem.2018.06.002

Gassó Miracle E., Loo T., Caspers M. (2018) Southeast Asian Butterfly Project. Conference abstract. SPNHC, Digitisation and Collections DataBiodiversity Information Science and Standards 2: e26319. https://doi.org/10.3897/biss.2.26319

Stork L., Weber A., Gassó Miracle E., Wolstencroft K. (2018) A Workflow for the Semantic Annotation of Field Books and Specimen Labels. Biodiversity Information Science and Standards 2: e25839. https://doi.org/10.3897/biss.2.25839

Gassó Miracle, E. (2017). Koleksi Serangga Papua: collection management and digitization. SUGAPA digital 10(2): 36-41.

Weber, A.; Ameryan, M.; Stork, L.; Wolstencroft, K.; Gassó Miracle, E.; Nijssen, S.; Wiering, M.; Heerlien, M.; Thijssen, M.; Huetink, M.; Verbeek, F.; Plaat A.; Kok, J.; Roberts, L.; Herik, J. van den; Schomaker, L. (2016). Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten ArchivesPoster at eScience Symposium, Amsterdam, 13 October 2016.

Schomaker, L.; Weber, A.; Thijssen, M.; Heerlien, M.; Plaat A.; Nijssen, S.; Verbeek, F.; Lew, M.; Gassó Miracle, E.; Wolstencroft, K.; Suvyer, E.; Verheij, B.; Wiering, M.; Dekker, R.; Kok, J.; Roberts, L.; Van den Herik, J. (2016). Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives, Digital Humanities 2016 Krakow, Conference Abstracts, 764-766. (peer-reviewed)

Gassó Miracle, M.E. & T. Yokochi (2016). Type specimens of South East Asian Adoliadini (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae) in the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands. Lepidoptera Science 67(2): 67-88https://doi.org/10.18984/lepid.67.2_67

Tennent, W.J. & Gassó Miracle, M.E. (2016). A new subspecies of Nacaduba cyanea Cramer, 1775, from Buru, Maluku, Indonesia (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 159(2): 81–88.

Gassó Miracle, M.E. (2011). On Whose Authority? Temminck’s Debates on Zoological Classification and Nomenclature: 1820-1850. Journal of the History of Biology 44 (3): 445-481.

Hoogmoed, M.S., M.E. Gassó Miracle & L.W. van den Hoek Ostende (2010). Type specimens of recent and fossil Testudines and Crocodylia in the collections of the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden 84 (8): 159-199.

Gassó Miracle, M.E. (2008). The Significance of Temminck’s Work on Biogeography: Early Nineteenth Century Natural History in Leiden, The Netherlands. Journal of the History of Biology 41: 677-716.

Gassó Miracle, M.E., van den Hoek Ostende, L.W. & Arntzen, J.W. (2007). Type specimens of amphibians in the National Museum of Natural History, Leiden, The Netherlands. Zootaxa 1482: 25–68

Van Tol, J., Gassó Miracle, M.E., de Jong, R. & van Nieukerken, E. (2007). Results of the Invertebrate Surveys in the Gunung Lumut Protection Forest. In: de Jongh, H., Persoon, G. & Kustiawan, W. (eds.) Options for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use in Lowland Forests of Southeast Borneo. Leiden, April 2007.

Keijl G.O., Nieukerken, E.J. van & Gassó Miracle, M.E. (2006). Naturalis: a mity collection. Acarology: proceedings of the 12th International Congress (Amsterdam, 2006). EURAAC Newsletter 4/10: 6-9. pdf

Gassó Miracle, M.E. (1997). La reproducción de los crocodílidos. Aspectos importantes para su manejo y conservación. Psitàcid, 2: 11-15. DEPANA, Barcelona.

Gassó Miracle, M.E. et al., (1997). Enginyeria genètica... sense fronteres? Illacrua, 51/Ecoilla 1-4. Barcelona.


Online articles

15 things you didn't know about the Naturalis collection. Naturalis Biodiversity Center Blog. 4 July 2017.

Museum Chronicles. On collections and curators. Several posts.

19th Century Butterflies: Reconstructing a Collection’s History with BHL. Biodiversity Library Heritage. Users Blog. 9 March 2017

Collectiebeheerders zonder collecties. Naturalis Biodiversity Center Blog. 18 January 2017. EN.

Niet alleen hamsters hamsteren. Het Scheepvaartmuseum. 24 October 2016.

Sterren van Naturalis: reptielen en amfibieën. Naturalis Biodiversity Center. 2013.