It’s not hard to find zoos that give visitors a chance to shake hands with beasts great and small, but Amsterdam’s Micropia is an ultra-modern creature collection of a much tinier order, focusing on the bacteria and microbes that live on and among us every day.
Opened in 2014 with a personal visit by the Queen Máxima of the Netherlands— showing that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty—the zoo of tiny things sets out to show how interesting and beautiful the invisible world all around us can be. Sitting in the heart of Amsterdam, the facility features exhibits such as petri dishes filled with artfully grown cultures that show the naturally occurring designs they create, and a “scanner” that shows exactly what is growing on people, and where. The only light in the exhibition comes from the displays themselves. The result is a space that feels clean, but almost dank.
There is also a microbiology lab on site that grows and cares for the microbes on display. The lab technicians act as both zookeepers and docents, ready to answer any questions that aren’t answered by the big screen microscopes that show what the little things look like up close.
When kids come home from the zoo, they are usually prone to shrieking ad nauseam about their favorite animal. It’s about time they came home screaming the names of bacteria.