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, visitors can examine live colonies of soil bacteria that help sustain terrestrial environments  and they can 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 the ways in which 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 affect the planet’s biosphere in ways that science is only just beginning to uncover and understand.

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 guest curators Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter, and 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