The fascinating world of micro-organisms

By Andy Whittard

Common cold micro-organismsA trip to Amsterdam threw up an unexpected little gem all about the fascinating world of micro-organisms and microbiology. Now I have to admit that this wasn’t something we went looking for, the normal attractions of canals, Van Gogh, tulips, pancakes, etc. were our main focus.  As were places to eat and how to get about – the public transport in Amsterdam is first rate!

However, on checking what was close by to other attractions we wanted to see, we came across Micropia.  This museum of the unseen world of microbes is located in the Natura Artis Magistra’s historical building "Ledenlokalen", south east of the city centre. Micropia is the only museum dedicated to microbes and seeks to ‘inspire the general public, encouraging their interest in the smallest, most successful organisms from an early age’  

On entering the small building, you are faced with an array of information and exhibits all about micro-organisms, starting with the Tree of Life.  A diagrammatic explanation of all life forms on Earth, it immediately shows the massive diversity, and how insignificant we humans are!  The branches of the tree a representative of 1500 species, two thirds of which are micro-organisms!


micropia exhibition micro-organisms

We then continued past a large selection of exhibits where powerful microscopes helped enter the world of the unseen.  Now not all microbes are good on the eye, but some are actually beautiful and their ability to affect their surroundings immense.  Did you know that 50% of all oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by micro algae!  These microbes were the first to be discovered in the 17th century by the Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.

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A major attraction is the fantastic interactive multimedia screen that allows the person stood in front of it to navigate to information about microbes on the human body. Needless to say, there was much hilarity as we discovered some of the less glamorous side to microbes and where they hide!  But what a great way to get visitors to engage with the subject of microbiology.

So, if you find yourself in Amsterdam with an hour or so to fill, why not try something different and visit the world of microbes at Micropia.

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