Life Underground

A single handful of soil magnified a 1000 times, to take visitors up close to the wonder of wildlife beneath our feet.

The Field Museum was established in 1893 and is one of the oldest natural history museums in the world alongside the Natural History Museum in London.

Throughout its proud history it has pioneered and continues to introduce new exhibit techniques that engage visitors in active learning. MET is proud to say that in the first year of opening the gallery it designed, the museum was able to attract 30% more visitors than before.

‘Life Underground’ is one of three permanent exhibitions that provide the key to public understanding of the Museum’s environmental and cultural themes.

MET Studio’s multi-disciplinary team of architects, researchers, and designers worked in partnership with the Museum’s in-house design and development team for two years to produce a new kind of museum exhibition – a fully immersive look into the microscopic world of soil, introducing the creatures and plants that live above and within that shallow subterranean ecology which make life on Earth possible.

At the entrance to the gallery visitors are transported to a research site on a prairie outside Chicago where a team of scientists have discovered how to ‘shrink’ people to the size of bugs…! Visitors are then subsequently shrunk to the height of a Dime, entering the world of giant, animatronic beetles, ants, earwigs and sleeping slugs.

Scientists’ notebooks are displayed throughout the journey and describe the diversity of underground species, how organisms relate to one another and how life above and below ground is inter-related.

Returning to normal size, other highlights include an interactive area which examines the basic biology and functions of the soil, and a tour around the world, illustrating for example how soil in the Nile Delta differs from soil in the tropical rainforest, and how people have learned to live sustainably using local soils.



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