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London 'Micrarium' aims to showcase tiny animals

Friday - 2/8/2013, 7:00pm  ET

In this Jan. 30 image made available by University College London Thursday Feb. 7 2013, a curator cleans specimen slides on a wall of the Grant Museum in central London. Jack Ashby, who manages the museum , said Thursday he is trying to give dragonfly nymphs, tortoise mites, and sea spiders the attention they deserve, unveiling a “Micrarium” devoted to some of animal kingdom’s smallest subjects. “You go to any natural history museum and it’s normally full of big animals, but actually the huge majority of life on Earth is absolutely tiny, and we thought we’d right that wrong,” he said in a telephone interview. “We want to give people a chance to see what makes up most of the animal kingdom.” (AP Photo/ UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology/Robert Eagle)

RAPHAEL SATTER
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- They're minuscule, there are millions of them, and one museum manager says they're massively under-represented.

Jack Ashby, who is in charge of the Grant Museum of Zoology in central London, said Thursday he is trying to give dragonfly nymphs, tortoise mites, and sea spiders the attention they deserve, unveiling a "Micrarium" devoted to some of the animal kingdom's smallest subjects.

"You go to any natural history museum and it's normally full of big animals, but actually the huge majority of life on Earth is absolutely tiny, and we thought we'd right that wrong," he said in a telephone interview. "We want to give people a chance to see what makes up most of the animal kingdom."

The Grant Museum, whose history stretches back to before the Victorian era, has an eclectic group of items typical of 19th-century collections. It houses Dodo bones, a giant deer skull, an unusual batch of animal brains pickled in alcohol, and an even eerier-looking jar jammed full of preserved moles. Ashby said the back-lit walls of the Micrarium -- housed in a former storage room within the larger museum -- display 2,323 slides of mini-monsters, from tortoise beetles to baby cuttlefish.

He said many of the slides were once used as study aids for British zoology and anatomy students and that some of them date back to the 1850s. He added that visitors who have trouble making out the ancient slides will be equipped with magnifying glasses.

The Micrarium is already open to the public and, like the museum, is free of charge.

But don't all come at once. The room is very small.

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Online:

The Grant Museum: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology

Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://raphae.li/twitter


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