MICROPIA

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After our visit to Netherlands’s oldest zoo in Amsterdam – Natura Artis Magistra, we decided to pop by right next door to a different kind of zoo called Micropia.

Micropia is the first zoo of its kind displaying the invisible world of micro-organism. A microbes-zoo!! According to the website, ‘Micropia is the only museum in the world revealing the world of microscopically small life’. Microbes are the smallest living organism, the oldest life form on earth and the most powerful organism on our planet. There are 100 thousand billion microbes (1.5kg of them) living in and on us and we need them to survive. Intrigue?

Located on Artisplein, Micropia is a 2-storey museum set on the historical building called the Ledenlokaal (1870), sharing ground with a beautiful grand café-restaurant de Plantage.

After ticketing, we embarked on our museum journey with an interesting slow ascending elevator ride to the upper floor. During this ride, the elevator commentary (in Dutch) told us to look up and saw the camera animation zooming in on mites … living on our eyelashes!
And the even smaller bacteria and viruses living on those mites!! It was quite an introduction.

I was squirming a little arriving at the upper floor exhibition. The entire space was rather dark, filled with interactive displays, user-friendly microscopes and many mesmerizing glowing bubbling-glass containers.
On this UPPER FLOOR, we were able to:
– study the fluorescent blue Tree of Life.
– examine water fleas in real time and many other hair-raising algae, fungi, molds, mosquito larvae, etc. More squirming!
– scan our body to see what types of microbes living on us. Yikes!
– try Kiss-O-Meter to measure the number of microbes transferred during a kiss.
– skim through the comprehensive collection of animal faeces. Kids were in awe!
– appreciate a preserved human digestion system.
– admire the working nature of the (red) ant colony.
– observe a real-life working microbiology laboratory through a huge window where scientists (not paid actors) continuously studying, growing, cultivating and caring for all these 300+ microbes at this museum.
– inspect a decomposing giraffe calf.
– pay close attention to the wall of colorful bacteria arranged on Petri dishes.
Towards the end, I learnt how poop bacteria like E.coli are everywhere at every imaginable surface. The most alarming fact was about toothbrushes. Apparently the longer you use a toothbrush, the more bacteria it will collect on it!! Brushing teeth have never been the same ever again for me.

The GROUND FLOOR exhibition revealed further on how microbes are essential for life. We took a look at how microbes were used in the making of food and biofuel. There was an engaging exhibit of rotting food as a result after days, weeks or months when not refrigerated. Also, glass models of viruses such as Aids and Ebola. Everything in this museum raised my consciousness!

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Did you know this? The founding father of bacteria was a Dutchman named Antoni van Leeuwenhoek from Delft. In 1674, he discovered microbes using a homemade microscope. He called the creatures “animalcules”. A replica of this homemade microscope is on display at Micropia.

Micropia was launched late September 2014. I read it was 12 years in the making and cost €10 million euros to launch this zoo. The biggest creature in this museum exhibit is the ants! It is a fascinating museum for anyone interested in science or just plain curious about the invisible life around us. Recommended age for Micropia is 8 years and above.

Note: Visitor will be given a card upon entry which you can ‘stamp with microbes’ at allocated punch card station. View all the 30 stamped microbes at the end on an interactive screen.

Website: http://www.micropia.nl/en/
Opening hours: Everyday 9am – 6pm except Thursdays – Saturdays till 8pm
Entrance fees: €14.00 (10 yrs and up), €12.00 (3-9yrs) and €7.50 for students. Combination tickets for Artis and Micropia are available too.
Free entry for Museum Card holder and other cards.
Getting there:
By car – parking facility is approximately 150 m away from the main entrance. A full day parking cost €9.00 or €4.00 per hour. Operating hours are from 0830hrs – midnight.
By public transport – 10-minute walk from the nearest station Waterlooplein. Take tram 9 from Amsterdam Central Station or tram 14 from Dam and alight at Artis – Amsterdam Royal Zoo stop.

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