Microsculpture- handling live insects and 3D printed replicas

One of our most successful touch tours so far at the Museum of Natural History has been a tour of their “Microsculpture” exhibition.

 As usual, the tour was split into 2 sections.  In the first half, we explored the exhibition, describing these enormous and absolutely beautiful images of the smallest specimen’s in the museum’s collection.   Our swell paper printer really added to the experience, allowing visitors to feel the outline structures of these amazing creatures. 


Next was the handling section of our tour.  Now, the only thing that is touchable in this collection are the insects themselves!  Insect handling is usually one of the highlights of any outreach or family session that we do and we wanted our touch tour participants to have access to the same experience.

 Luckily everyone was quite game more than happy to join in and had a fantastic time holding cockroaches, millipedes and stick insects.


However, not everyone will be comfortable doing this.  This is one particular instance when the usefulness of 3D replicas became apparent.  Having a model would be incredibly helpful.  But it was also important to the entomology staff that it shouldn’t just be any old model of an insect that was used, but one that was as accurate as possible. 

 They were interested to see if this scientific accuracy in the model was as important to our visitors.  We were able to test this out as they had a small model of a cockroach that had been made for them.  This model had been made from a mould of an actual cockroach from the museum’s collection and so was completely scientifically accurate.   img_3161

And it turned out that the thing the visitors at the touch tour loved about the model was it’s accuracy.  They could feel every little hair on its legs and the feathering of its’ antennae.  And they got to explore it really closely, more than they did the live specimens.  So we’re looking into whether there might be an opportunity to produce more of these kinds of replicas in the future. 


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