Collectors, Travelers, Artists
The contents of the Porter House are a fantastical blend of Victorian elegance, creative artistry, and the collected curiosities of an early 20th century naturalist.
The Porter House furnishings are representative of Decorah's early English period. Among these traditional pieces are a Victorian settee and side pieces, original paintings in their splendid frames, and a complete Eastlake walnut bedroom set. Many of the home's Victorian furnishings belonged to Grace Porter's parents, Francis and Emma Young.
Both Grace and Bert Porter were artists. Many fine examples of Grace's needlepoint and china painting are on display. Bert's creative impulses manifested in his delicate "butterfly art," which he crafted using real butterflies, insects, ferns, mosses, and other pressed flowers.
Bert was a collector all his life. He spared no effort traveling the world and gathering his vast natural history collections. The Museum still contains hundreds of his butterflies, moths, beetles, spiders, rocks, and fossils of all colors and sizes. Some of the butterfly specimens were caught by Bert over 100 years ago!
Bert caught many North American butterflies and moths, as well as a considerable number from South America. Some of the most popular specimens still on display at the Museum include the brilliant Blue Morpho butterflies (Bert's favorite) and the gargantuan Hercules moths. The beauty and color of the display are breath-taking.
After Bert's death in 1968, hundreds of carefully-folded envelopes containing butterflies and moths were discovered stashed away in dozens of cigar boxes. Bert caught these specimens abroad, and never unpacked them when he returned from his trips!
The video above was created by Luther College student Emma Busch during Fall of 2018 as part of an independent study project.