Biodiversity Shrines

The year is 2043. Look what our archaeologists have unearthed and restored.
Do you want to change the world so that 2043 is different?

HERE are some ideas on how you can get involved! (As the exhibition is in France, the page with links is in French).

The Virtual Visit

SHELF 1: Pictures with beaded butterflies: PLEBICULA AZURA – CLOSSINIA AURIANA VAR.

  • PLEBICULA AZURA Butterflies, fantasy species, paper art with perlage and embroidery.

Unknown butterfly species, dated and mounted as in an old natural history collection. Apparently, the specimens were caught in 2019 in the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord. There are no scientific records, but DNA traces prove that the insects were subsequently embroidered by human hands.

It is unclear whether these butterfly shrines originated from an ancient butterfly cult that may have emerged during the time of the Great Insect Extinction. It is possible, however, that they were part of funeral and memorial rites because of their connection with perlage technology. In France in the 19th century, perlage was often used to make valuable wreaths true to nature.

SHELF 1: Du pain, du vin et du boursin: THE SHRINE OF CERES

  • Shrine of Ceres with an embroidered ear of grain on blue fabric and a real one on golden fabric. Decorated with folklore braids and shows traditional Ukrainian embroidery patterns with tree-of-life symbols.

Ceres was the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and harvest, associated in the cult with rites of marriage and death. The focus of worship here is an embroidered and a real ear of grain. The latter was dated to 2023, the origin of the shrine is unclear. According to tradition, Boursin must have been a soy-free greasy product. It was the first French food advertising slogan on analogue television, which no longer exists.

Digital panels of the time show that grain played a central role in feeding the world at that time. For example, cellulose obtained from waste paper or algae products were not yet used for bread production as they are today.

In some of the old tablets, the word food security appears again and again. So it could have been an incantation shrine. A clue could be the striking colours and paintings. The latter have been identified as Ukrainian traditional embroidery patterns. In 2022 and 2023, the brutal warmonger had repeatedly tried to blackmail the world’s hungry with transport blockades before being sent into perpetual exile on Mars with other warmongers and dictators of the world. This Federated World Regions Act ensured world peace in just a few years. Since the owner of the expulsion transports on Mars then engaged in a war for profit with the exiles, all return flight lines were cut.

However, cereals also came under pressure at that time due to climate change. More frequent extreme heat and especially drought in winter and summer put extreme pressure on the plants. African researchers succeeded in breeding a more climate-resistant cereal variety in the early 2030s, but bread made from other ingredients was now cheaper.


  • Cidaria lavandula: Fantasy paper art butterfly in rose and purple with embroidery and perlage.

This specimen was caught in the Northern Vosges Nature Park in 2019. It has been proven to be one of the first butterflies to lay their eggs in bead collections and feed on embroidery thread. Their role as pollinators of thread remnants was so important that attempts were made to breed them on a large scale. But as early as 2020, there was a mutation that had a global impact: the insects returned to nature.

SHELF 2: ODE TO THE DEADWOOD, A FAIRY’S BOOK, Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord.

  • Our archaeologists found the fairy book hanging in one of the last Alsatian barns. It is made of the wood of clematis vines, embroidered with strange red signs and objects.

One of the few genuine fairy books left in the world.

Scientists from the University of Oslo-Cotswolds have been able to prove that the strange textile characters on ancient clematis lianas represent a fairy original. Thanks to Nobel Prize winners Prof. Dr. Dr. Smilla Lichen and Prof. dr. John Mosstodon, the rare piece has been deciphered. It tells how the fairy Clematica abseiled from a huge maple tree to bring gifts to her friends in the deadwood. The songs of tree fungi, mosses and lichens are recorded in the piece.

The title therefore seems to have been added at a later date by people who did not know that deadwood is teeming with life and makes life possible. The inscribed lime wood hanger was also probably added when the fairy book was being catalogued for an archive. People did not know at that time that fairies never hang up their books, but put them under their pillows.


  • Embroidered moss and mixed media lichen mounted on the outer bark of a nearly 200-years-old oak.

Clearly man-made, this ensemble of mosses and lichen was applied to oak bark. It was embroidered with French knot stitch around 2023, but also contains elements of silk fibre, textile, paper and glass beads.

A faded handwritten note came to light in the archive. It notes the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord as the place of discovery. It also says:

„Because of the constant drought, even in winter, these almost 200-year-old oak trees no longer reach the water. The oak from which this top layer of bark came was cut down before it got sick.“

The exhibit is probably a so-called supplication stick, as it was widely made at that time. People who did not want to despair of the indifference towards climate change and the extinction of species made the supplication sticks and passed them around in a circle in a ritual. The person holding the stick told what he or she was doing to preserve biodiversity. The participants hoped to infect others with ideas and solutions. According to tradition, there were also gatherings where everyone brought a supplication stick and asked the earth’s living beings for forgiveness.


  • Jordanita subsolana butterfly with a turquoise piece of treasure in a round shrine. The shrine is decorated with braid and floral perlage. The colours are mostly orange and turquoise shades.
  • View of the outside of the shrine. It is covered with orange silk and surrounded with floral perlage in orange and green.

In this round reliquary is a turquoise-green Jordanita subsolana forester moth, with a mysterious treasure of the same colour.

This turquoise ornamental piece with gold crocheting and manufactured Picasso beads turned out to be plastic waste fused with cement on closer analysis. The object is congruent with soil samples from a former wild dump on the bank of a rivulet in Oberkutzenhausen. Before someone burnt rubbish there, it would have been an ideal habitat for the butterfly’s single, rare food plant.

Once native to Alsace, the butterfly was first described by Staudinger in 1862 and last sighted in the Haut Rhin in 1934. The species was still found in the east and south of France, especially in the Alps, at the time the reliquary was created. However, it shares the problem of many species: it is dependent on a single plant species. Here it is the woolly thistle (Cirsium eriophorum).

The plant with the thick spherical flower head and pink flowers was once prepared like an artichoke and could have become a garden plant. In the early 20th century, however, only small populations west and southwest of Saverne were recorded.

The cobweb-like covering of one of the butterfly wings is striking. It is handmade from raw silk containing sericin. Apparently, sericin was not only used industrially in medicine and cosmetics at that time. People took it from the silk spiders. The caterpillars of these butterflies spin their cocoons from silk threads. Sericin proteins coat the silk fibres and act as „glue“ to hold them together.


  • A precious shrine in the form of a Gothic church window. A realistic paper art beetle sits in a recess. The sides of the shrine are trimmed with precious borders, and the shrine itself is covered with floral machine embroidery on green georgette.

The extraordinary splendour shrine for a Cucujus cinnaberinus beetle is a rare find in our collection because it tells of a happy ending in Alsace. The lifelike paper art beetle sits, it could be analysed, in a shrine made of civilisation’s waste of the time. A delivery box from a now-unknown company called Amazon, covered in the recess with an old dictionary page, was whitened and lavishly decorated. The floral, machine-embroidered elements are remnants of machine waste from sari production.

Hard to imagine today, back then rubbish from deliveries and fast fashion was rampant. It seems almost touching how people at that time tried to create tiny beauties out of tons of wasted material.

The Cucujus cinnaberinus Beetle was initially protected throughout Europe. It was considered a relict of the old primeval forests and had disappeared throughout France. It felt at home in near-natural forest management, where it played an important role in decomposing dead wood into humus. Its larvae live mainly under the bark of dead deciduous trees and, in addition to decomposing bark bast, eat microorganisms. The survival of the ecologically important beetles became difficult when deadwood was increasingly removed from forests and gardens became more and more sterile.

Rescue came through an unexpected development. In 2014, the beetle suddenly reappeared for the first time in the Bas Rhin in Alsace: it had found a new food source! In Alsace, fast-growing poplar forests had been established. When deadwood remained in some of them, the miracle happened: After heavy storms, the beetles colonised dying poplar forests and riparian woods.

Around the time the magnificent shrine was created, people recognised the ecological importance of deadwood and no longer destroyed these important habitats and places of origin of valuable humus. In this respect, the shrine is a hymn to what is possible through rethinking.

NIVEAU 3: QUICKLY SMOKED: sanctuaries in cigarette tin boxes.

  • Vintage cigarette tin box. An irritating combination of an emerald-green object and a very old photo of an animal looking like a sea slug.

In the 2020s, cigarettes were still paper tubes stuffed with crumbs from the tobacco plant. They were lit and used to decorate the face. A possibly magical mini-ritual, because the decoration burned for a shorter time than a Christmas tree. These shrines probably allude to the shortness of time.

Shrine 1: „The Emerald“. The meaning of the first shrine could not be fully clarified. There is a valuable-looking object that resembles a sitting bird with its head resting on its back. The German text underneath tells of the extinction of the passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius), once one of the most common species on earth. They were decimated by excessive hunting, the last one dying in captivity in 1914. The ancient paper in the lid shows an unknown sea creature.

A close examination of the emerald revealed that it was made of melted plastic. The molecular evidence places the object in a wild illegal rubbish dump on a rivulet near Oberkutzenhausen. A thin plastic bottle in the ground takes about 450 years to decompose, toxins and microplastics last almost indefinitely. Plastic melted into such lumps hardly decomposes at all. One study describes that land dwellers used to do this on purpose to create sterile, infertile soil among hostile neighbours. However, it is highly controversial.

Shrine 2: Butterfly on tapestry. A Large Copper butterfly of the subspecies Lycaena dispar dispar sits on a wire structure that seems to turn green with emerald green perlage. It blooms on a tapestry. The inner lid is also magnificently decorated, with flowers in machine embroidery of silk on golden vintage cigarette paper.

At the time the shrine was made, this subspecies of gossamer-winged butterflies had already disappeared from Alsace, and the species itself was increasingly disappearing due to the destruction of its habitat: bogs and wetlands. The butterfly was therefore not only on the Red List in France and other countries but also strictly protected. The wire, which could be located on the same wild rubbish dump as in Shrine 1, could indicate the increasing desperation of people at that time. Even the flower embroidery is rubbish, it is machine waste from sari-making in India. Magic did not help the butterfly, wetlands were destroyed in the years to come.

Shrine 3: Rose beetle. The rose beetle with its distinctive pattern between a perlage of forget-me-nots and an antique schoolbook paper is also extinct. Beetles with floral patterns on their wings must have lived in a regionally and temporally restricted manner; no other specimen can be found in the planet’s museums. This is all the more astonishing because the food plant was able to survive.

It was not easy for the restoration department to reconstruct the ancient beading techniques and to rework the tiny flowers on velvet. However, parallels were found in glass bead funeral wreaths, which were widespread in France in the 19th century and were also found in Alsace.

NIVEAU 3: COLLAGE. When frogs dream, lichens smile.

  • A collage in green, white and orange tones with natural finds.

In the 2020s, more and more people started talking to plants and animals. Scientists discovered intelligence and abilities in creatures that would never have been thought of in the previous century. Ecological connections were explored anew. Artists recorded conversations of small creatures. People sat fascinated in flower meadows. Children laughed in the forest with knobbly mosses and chatty ants. There were many of the same kind of shrines. People recorded their experiences of nature on them, preserving colours, sounds and conversations.


  • Yellow collage with papers, nature finds and copper elements.

Around the time that humans were creating Large Language Models with artificial intelligence, one of the systems in a data centre in Strasbourg took on a life of its own. It fused older computer hard disks with even older paper disks. The fusion process itself has not yet been discovered. But it is certain that the artificial intelligence docked onto the copper parts of such disks and left its programme instructions in tree bark. Two years later, the spook was over: the AI had learned that trees were vastly superior to it in terms of communication. They fed in their knowledge into the AI. This piece is a rare artefact of a wild cherry, Prunus avium.


  • Sanctuary with a mixed media collage showing a drawing of a strawberry plant.

In the 2020s, shrines made of cheese boxes suddenly appeared. Collage-like and simple, they seem to have been made by cheese eaters. Possibly this extinct food contained an enzyme that stimulated colour vision and creativity. It is striking that these shrines combine small everyday objects and plants in a way that was considered beautiful at the time.

It is not impossible that these were healing spells against the so-called Eco-Grief.

The small shrine with the moorland clouded yellow butterfly (Colias Palaeno) points to a connection with shrines such as „Worship in Turquoise“ (see above). It shared the fate of many highly specialised species. Its food plant, the bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), became rarer with the decline of the bogs important for its survival. Once widespread in eastern France, the butterfly became extinct in the Ardennes as early as the 1950s. There and in the Jura, all reintroduction projects failed. At the time of the shrine’s creation, it probably no longer existed in the Vosges and only sporadically in the Jura. It was protected at the time.

It is possible, then, that the ancient healing spell shrines evolved in a direction that led people to fight for rare species in the plant, animal and fungal kingdoms. Shrines in such striking bright colours might have been carried as objects in demonstration marches. Perhaps they were also considered talismans for the later „revolution for biodiversity“.