A new research centre for the Western Australian Museum, containing state-of-the-art laboratories and a store that houses more than 2.5 million wet-preserved specimens, has been named after the late Dr Harry Butler AO CBE.
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day today unveiled the $17.6 million centre located at the WA Museum’s Collections and Research Centre in Welshpool, acknowledging the significant contribution Dr Butler made to the museum.
“Harry was one of Australia’s best known naturalists who played a major role in the public awareness and conservation of our unique natural environment for more than 50 years,” Mr Day said.
“What is perhaps not as well-known are his decades of association with the WA Museum involving education, fieldwork collecting, advocacy and financial support.
“2016 marks the 40th year of the Butler Bequest, which enables the museum to conduct fieldwork and collect specimens that augment the research collections.”
The Harry Butler Research Centre is the first element of the new museum project, and is critical to support the development of the state’s new museum, to be built in the Perth Cultural Centre and scheduled to open in 2020.
The centre has about 10 kilometres of shelves set to house more than 2.5 million alcohol-preserved specimens.
Among these are 2500 unique and irreplaceable original type specimens used to describe new species of animals.
These include the commercially valuable western rock lobster; the Dampier Peninsula goanna, which is the smallest goanna species in the world; and the Ruby sea dragon which was discovered in 2015 and is only the third species of sea dragon ever recorded.
“This very important collection includes remarkable scientific discoveries that were made here in WA, and include many specimens collected by Harry Butler,” Mr Day said.
There are also several species in the collection actually named after Dr Butler.
These include a black scorpion he discovered in the Pilbara called Urodacus butleri; the highly venomous Spotted mulga snake Pseudechis butleri; and the rare Butler’s Dunnart Sminthopsis butleri which is a small mouse-sized mammal discovered by him in 1965 and a threatened species.
“The Harry Butler Research Centre will ensure the State’s collection is preserved for future generations and will provide unparalleled access to specimens for ongoing research, as well as new content development for the new museum,” Mr Day said.
Dr Butler was named Australian of the year in 1979, jointly with Aboriginal senator Neville Bonner.
He died of cancer, aged 85, in Perth in December last year.