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The Invisible World in Amsterdam

In the laboratory of Micropia laboratory technicians make cultures of micro-organisms. Photo Micropia, Maarten van der WalI confess, when I hear news about a brand new zoo development (that quickly became world-famous), I imagine a large and special building with green enclosure(s) and, of course, with interesting or rare animals. In most cases, that is the case. However, since I visited the Royal Artis Zoo's newest project four months after the opening, I see the world in a different way than before.                                                                        

The name of the project: MICROPIA

It is strange that although microorganisms make two-thirds of the wildlife, no one has thought to show the microbes in a zoo before. You can't see the microbes, yet they are there everywhere: inside your body, inside your food, in the air, in the water, in the ground, etc... The microbes are the real lords of the Earth.

About the „Museum”

The worthy home of Micropia is a tarnished building near the main entrance of the zoo that had been renovated. This is not a typical modern zoo pavilion and it is rightly so, since this is an unusual exhibit where you can see the invisible and wonderful world. As the motto says: "Small is beautiful".

You can go to the magical world of microbes with a special lift which is a real high-tech experience. But even before departing to Micropia, you are given a card on entry which you can stamp at various displays (as the LIKE button on Facebook) and then check it the end of your tour under a scanner. This is your experience which you can take home after the visit.

The water bear phylum Tardigrada can survive in the most extreme conditions. Image Micropia ANP Photo

There are several displays of Petri dishes which contain the microbes with a short story and fantasy names. It is real 21st century technology (virtual reality), but the microorganisms do live! The scientists change the Petri dishes in every two hours, if necessary – it is modern technology with classical microbiology. Yes, scientists! There is a real-life working laboratory where you can see every work process through a window, where the white-coated technicians work.

A cross-section of the wall with 150 Petri dishes containing different micro-organisms. Photo Micropia Maarten van der Wal

You can learn a lot of facts about bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae like in a museum. The Micropia is a completely interactive experience, for example there are some very large statues of microbes and many funny tools, too. The two most famous are the body scanner and the Kiss-o-meter. The first is an application which can show you what types of microbes live on your body. The second is one that can count the number of microbes transferred during a kiss!

Discover your own microbes with the body scan. Photo Micropia Maarten van der Wal

There is also a species kept here which is bigger than the microorganisms: the leafcutter ants, which are a good example of biotechnology in the animal kingdom.

I believe that developments like the Micropia are real pioneers of scientific knowledge, so they play an important role in the daily educational work of zoos, too. Another great advantage of Micropia is that it is a useful programme not only for adults but also for children as well.

Every human has more than 700 different types of bacteria in his or her mouth. Photo Micropia Maarten van der Wal


And finally here are some interesting facts about the Micropia:

Opened: 30th September 2014
The project's total cost: 10 million €
Time of development: more than 12 years
The Dutch Queen Máxima opened the Micropia.
This is the first and only microbes’ exhibition in the world.

There are people who are interested in the idea in order to create similar exhibits, but in the meantime let's go to Amsterdam and see the invisible world of microbes and don't forget to investigate your own microbes too!



For more information, please visit the following websites:


Special thanks to:
János Szánthó (Cluster Manager Animal & Plant) of Royal Artis Zoo in Amsterdam


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