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

Fermentophone: New in the Microbial Life gallery

Artist Talks:

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

On view from February 5 through February 23.

Fermentophone, created by multimedia artist Joshua Pablo Rosenstock, is a musical instrument played by the fermenting process of live bacteria and yeast. The installation, new to the Microbial Life exhibit, combines our love of fermented foods and the mysterious activities of the symbiotic microbiome.

As the bacteria and yeast in the jars eat the sugars in the ingredients, they produce carbon dioxide gas. Underwater microphones translate the bubbles into rhythmic data that become computerized, and produce an immersive, multichannel, musical soundtrack to the active fermentation.

The jars in the Microbial Life gallery were co-created by the fellows at the Food Literacy Project at Harvard, the Somerville Community Growing Center, and students from Ms. Rodriguez’s 3rd grade class at Albert F. Argenziano School in Somerville.

About Microbial Life: A Universe at the Edge of Sight

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

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

2020 Feb 22

Fermentophone: Meet the Artist

2:00pm to 3:00pm

Location: 

Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Four jars with liquid and food fermenting in a window.

Special Event

Fermentophone is a musical instrument played by live bacteria and yeast. It’s also an edible art installation that brings you closer to the microbes that help create some of our favorite foods and drinks. Meet artist...

Read more about Fermentophone: Meet the Artist
2020 Feb 18

Fermentophone: Meet the Artist

10:00am to 11:00am

Location: 

Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Four jars with liquid and food fermenting in a window.

Special Event

Fermentophone is a musical instrument played by live bacteria and yeast. It’s also an edible art installation that brings you closer to the microbes that help create some of our favorite foods and drinks. Meet artist...

Read more about Fermentophone: Meet the Artist

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