CHICAGO — Owner and curator of the Insect Asylum Museum, Nina Salem, says she lives her life playing in dirt.

You’ll see Salem’s lifelong collection on display at Avondale’s newest museum. She has spent most of her life collecting and sourcing every piece of the collection through ethical and legitimate means. Salem prides herself in focusing on sustainable foraging and only removing things that will never be missed in nature.

The vast majority of the collection at the Insect Asylum Museum is antique, which sets them apart from other major collections. They have insects dating back to 1910, creating a unique array of specimens on display for insect lovers to appreciate.

After several career callings, Salmen wanted to do what she’s always loved. Growing up in the New England woods, she developed a deep connection to nature. Through spending time with her parents on hiking trails, she developed a strong passion for the outside world, collecting things she found along the way. Those experiences had a profound effect on her with a deep devotion to teaching others.

“This space is designed to educate what people don’t understand, understanding the difference in all insects will make them less scary and hopefully drop stereotypes of certain insects,” Salem said.

The education piece is upstairs at the education center space where “tangibles” are on display for all to experience. The education portion of the day is an added charge for materials usage, many interactive classes are offered to teach about pinning and displaying insects.

Art and insects intersect

“I wanted to create a space where parents didn’t say, ‘Keep your hands in your pockets, children,'” she said. “I’m autistic and I couldn’t help myself as a child. I want kids to touch and explore all that I have to offer in the space.”

Educational spaces and classes, art pieces and insect education are the themes of this space and a truly labor of love for Salem. All of these passions are apparent when you see the taxidermy, insects, pieces of art and jewelry on display.

To learn more about the Insect Asylum Museum, click here.

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