Fla. Museum hosts Microbes temporary exhibition Feb. 5 – May 30 National traveling exhibit explores helpful, harmful germs, organisms

January 7th, 2005

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host the temporary exhibition “Microbes: Invisible Invaders…Amazing Allies,” Feb. 5 – May 30.

Microbes is dedicated entirely to understanding the organisms that can either sustain life on Earth or threaten its very existence. It is geared toward children with its interactive, technologically advanced video games, humorous narratives, colorful photographs and fun activities.

“We are very excited that the Florida Museum is one of only 30 venue stops for this national exhibit,” said Susan Pharr, assistant director for exhibits and public programs at the Florida Museum. “I am sure that the video games, 3-D animation and special effects will really bring the exhibit to life for visitors of all ages.”

The 3,000-square-foot exhibition also features Microbe Man, a cartoon superhero and exhibit guide who saves the day by fighting off diseases and helping beneficial microbes. He entertains children and leads guests through a maze of information, including 10 sections and eight interactive displays.

The exhibit seeks to take the mystery out of infectious microbes, explore what microbes are and what they look like and explain the history of infectious diseases, including discussions on emerging diseases and how researchers and individuals fight them worldwide.

The exhibit uncovers the history of some of the most devastating diseases in the first four sections: a Paris crypt, Egyptian tomb, Aztec ruins and Main Street North America. Diseases such as polio, smallpox and tuberculosis are discussed, leading to the invention of penicillin during World War II. From there, the exhibit uses holograms, 3-D sculptures and electron microscope images to explain how small microbes are.

After learning about harmful microbes, guests enter Pete’s Place, an apartment setting where the benefits of helpful microbes are discussed, such as bacteria that help purify water or break down food into nutrients. Humorous narratives by talking, cartoon-like microbes relate how microbes affect the everyday food people cook and eat. Visitors then move to the Microbial Superhighway, an airplane fuselage that illustrates the effects pollution and modern transportation have on spreading diseases.

Microbes concludes with a video by Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who discusses progress in research on infectious diseases, the leading cause of death worldwide.

Microbes is packed with games and eight interactive activities for guests of all ages. The “Lines of Defense” foosball-style game illustrates the body’s lines of defense and the “Gobble De Goop” video game allows guests to use a joystick to guide munching microbes as they gobble up an oil spill. A major point of interest in the exhibition includes a photo of the unwrapped mummy of Ramses showing pockmarks from the smallpox virus, which possibly killed him in 1151 B.C.

Clear Channel Exhibitions in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health produced Microbes, which is sponsored nationally by Pfizer Inc. Local support is provided in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Writer: Kristin Ede
Media Contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu