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Exhibition Review: The Micrarium @ Grant Museum

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 46 months ago
Exhibition Review: The Micrarium @ Grant Museum
Installing the Micrarium  Conservator Felicity Bolton cleaning the Micrarium slides in-situ. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle
Installing the Micrarium Conservator Felicity Bolton cleaning the Micrarium slides in-situ. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle
A slice through a tortoise mite  © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
A slice through a tortoise mite © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
A group of copepods (small crustaceans)  © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
A group of copepods (small crustaceans) © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
A young cuttlefish  © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
A young cuttlefish © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Richard Weedon
The Micrarium, from left to right a whole sea spider, mantis shrimp, beetle slice and a pair of stained brine shrimps. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle
The Micrarium, from left to right a whole sea spider, mantis shrimp, beetle slice and a pair of stained brine shrimps. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle
The Micrarium  From left to right, serial sections of lamprey head, a European garden spider in section, earthworm oesophagus and adult female firefly. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle
The Micrarium From left to right, serial sections of lamprey head, a European garden spider in section, earthworm oesophagus and adult female firefly. © UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle

The Grant Museum is one of London's lesser known treasures. It's a small museum full of biological curiosities such as a rare skeleton of a quagga (an extinct relative of the zebra) to a jarful of moles or a tiger foetus. All these exhibits are crowded into a small space and it has a distinctly Victorian feel to it.

Its latest addition is the Micrarium – a small shrine dedicated to the miniscule organisms that we share the planet with but are often neglected compared to larger animals. It's a compact three sided space with only enough room for one person, but it's packed with slides from floor to ceiling. They contain varied specimens from a sawfly to a rat ovary, but are visible with the naked eye.

They are all hand labelled, making visitors feel like they've stumbled into the laboratory of an entomologist (someone who studies insects). In keeping with this theme some slides are indecipherable for non-experts, simply stating 'Hemipteran' or including the odd question mark as they're not sure what's been found.

In any other museum this would seem a strange addition but at the Grant Museum it fits in perfectly with their other quirky exhibits. It also draws attention to the world of tiny creatures, which are often ignored but play a vital part in nearly all ecosystems.

The Micrarium: A Place for Tiny Things is the latest addition to the Grant Museum of Zoology, Rockefeller Building, University College London, 21 University Street, WC1E 6DE. Admission is free.

Last Updated 14 February 2013