Microbial Life: A Universe at the Edge of Sight

  • Image of Microbial Life exhibit
  • Women using a museum interactive in front of a model kitchen
  • Winogradsky by Scott Chimileski for Microbial Life exhibit

Thriving within and around us is a minute world of astonishingly diverse lifeforms, so small they cannot be seen by the human eye. Microbial Life: A Universe at the Edge of Sight takes visitors on a multimedia journey into this fascinating, invisible realm, where bacteria and other microbes bustle about their lives, interacting with one another and with organisms of all sizes in every corner of the globe.

The visitor’s journey begins with a familiar entrance point to microbial life – a full-scale model of a kitchen. Drawing on cutting-edge scientific research, the exhibit uses interactive stations to introduce people to the tiny cohabitants of this human-built space through such age-old questions as, “Can I eat the leftovers?” and “What stinks?”

From there, museum-goers can examine live colonies of soil bacteria that help sustain terrestrial environments, or delve into ocean depths with a Harvard scientist to uncover secrets about bizarre microbial sea life. Captivating specimen displays and models from the collections of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Harvard Medical School highlight ways microbes engage with and sustain bodies of all animals, from termites to humans.

Explore the fascinating lives of Earth’s first inhabitants, as they continue to engage with and sustain the planet’s biosphere in ways science is only just beginning to uncover and understand.

Scheduled live demonstrations led by Harvard students and researchers provide opportunities to view live microbes, utilize microscopes, and experience the wonders of microbial activity.

Live Demonstration Schedule:

Saturdays and Sundays every half hour from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and again from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Microbial Life closes Sunday, March 1, 2020.

This project was made possible in part through grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation, and a generous gift from Clark Bernard MBA ‘68 and Susana Bernard. We would also like to thank Harvard’s Microbial Science Initiative for its support and guidance in planning the exhibition.

Related Press:

Invisible world comes to lightHarvard Gazette

Life of the partyHarvard Gazette

Microbes by the mile, Harvard Gazette

2018 Feb 15

Microbial Life: A Universe at the Edge of Sight



Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street

Free Exhibition Opening Lecture

Roberto Kolter, Professor Emeritus, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School; Director, Microbial Sciences Initiative, Harvard University

Scott Chimileski, Microbiologist and Photographer, Kolter Lab, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University

Although largely invisible, microbes are ubiquitous and
 have a profound influence on daily life.... Read more about Microbial Life: A Universe at the Edge of Sight