Fernbank Museum of Natural History (fernbankmuseum.org) announces the new special exhibition, The Power of Poison. Exploring the role of poison in nature, myth and human health, the exhibition will be on view from February 7– May 3, 2015, marking the first travel stop on a nationwide, multi-year tour.
Visitors will encounter some of history’s most puzzling poisoning cases, step into the pages of fairy tales, use clues to solve poisoning mysteries, and take part in a live theater presentation to help unravel a real-world case of poisoning.
For as long as people have created myths, they’ve told stories about the mysterious powers of poison. But in the natural world, poisons are simply part of the daily struggle to survive. The astonishing variety of evolutionary adaptations among toxic plants and animals is at the heart of this intriguing exhibition, which also examines humans’ attempts to understand poisons’ potency, how the science of detecting poison developed, and how researchers today use venoms and other natural toxins to develop new medical treatments.
This new, family-friendly special exhibition creates an engaging and immersive environment through the use of interactive components, models, multimedia and live animals. Whether as a defense against predators, a source of magical strength, or a lifesaving medical treatment, story of poison is filled with mystery, intrigue, fascinating tales and surprising benefits.
“The exhibition is unique in its ability to present visitors with a perfect blend of content related to biology, pharmacology, toxicology, anthropology, folklore, history and literature,” said Bobbi Hohmann, an anthropologist at Fernbank Museum. “Fascinating and fun at the same time, the exhibition presents guests with a blend of content that leaves them wanting to learn more.”
The Power of Poison showcases the impact poison has had on the world, taking visitors on an adventure through various galleries that are fun for all ages.
Visitors can walk through a re-created Colombian forest in the Poison in Nature dioramas as they learn about poisonous insects and animals that use poison as protection. While plants produce toxins primarily to protect against being eaten, animals often make poison to deter predators and capture prey. Visitors will explore adaptations and encounter live species, including golden poison frogs. They’ll also learn that many familiar foods that we encounter daily — cinnamon, chili peppers, coffee, and tea — owe their taste, smell, or stimulant effect to defensive chemicals that can be toxic in large doses.
The exhibition’s Poison in Myth and Legend section explores how poison has impacted the stories that have shaped cultures. There was a time when magic— not science —was widely used to explain poisonings or sicknesses, a time when the lines between poison, magic, and disease were often blurred. Not surprisingly, poisonous plants and other toxins can be found at the core of countless fairy tales and legends from around the world. And some of the most unlikely often contain kernels of truth. Viewers will have the chance to glance into the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, encounter the trio of witches from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and explore how poisons impacted the Harry Potter series through the use of antidotes. Visitors will also be able to examine an “enchanted” book that resembles an ancient botanical volume. Animations of well-known poisonous plant species, including belladonna and monkshood, “magically” appear with each turn of the page along with origin myths and annotations explaining how these plants were used in the past.
Just as the source of disease was mysterious for most of human history, so was cause of death — especially those involving poison, which in many cases was difficult to detect. A gallery in the exhibition’s Villains and Victims section considers some of history’s most notorious poisoners and poisonings that still puzzle us today, offering a glimpse of the challenges of detecting poison. Visitors can explore some of the famous stories that have made poison such a prominent evil. Find out if that apple really could have poisoned Snow White, and learn about the possible fates of historical figures ranging from Napoleon, to Cleopatra, to Ponce de Leon.
The Power of Poison will reveals how experts undertake the role of Detecting Poisons in a live show that explores the ways that poisons affect the body. Additionally, an iPad game will let visitors play detective by finding clues about various toxins and poisonous creatures as they review victims’ symptoms to help solve three puzzling cases of accidental poisonings.
Finally, in Poison for Good the exhibition takes a closer look at how poisons have helped society through breakthroughs in medicine and prevention methods. The field of toxicology was born out of a specific and urgent need — to detect poisons and prevent illness or death. Over the past century, advances in cell biology have allowed scientists to discover different ways poisons affect human cells and figure out how to use that power for restoring health. Today, plant and animal toxins are being studied as sources for potential ingredients for life-saving new drugs. Many are surprising, including the saliva of vampire bats, which contains an anticlotting agent that could protect stroke patients from blood clots in the brain.
Fernbank Museum has also created a Story Corner, which will offer younger children an opportunity to role play inspired by literature and fairy tales highlighted in the exhibition. The Story Corner will include puppets, costumes, plush animals and a variety of fairy tale props that bring the myths and legends of the exhibition to life.
Surprising at every turn, The Power of Poison features fascinating topics and plenty of fun for all ages. The exhibition will be on view from February 7-May 3 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
Fernbank will also host several activity days and events for The Power of Poison.
February 7 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Fernbank Museum will host an opening day celebration for families, which will include an exhibition-themed amulet craft, games and more.
Witches & Wizards Day
February 21 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Fernbank Museum will host a variety of fairy tale and mythology themed activities that explore how poisons have shaped stories throughout history.
Wild Poisons Day
March 14 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Encounter various plants, animals and fungi and learn about their connection to poison.
The Power of Poison is supported locally in part by The Marcus Foundation, Inc., the Principal Investor for this exhibition. The Power of Poison is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org).
Hours and Ticket Information
Fernbank Museum of Natural History is located at 767 Clifton Road NE in Atlanta. The Museum is open daily, 10 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Power of Poison is included with Museum admission. Tickets are $18 for adults, $17 for students/seniors, $16 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and younger. Tickets and visitor information are available at www.fernbankmuseum.org or 404.929.6300 (info) / 404.929.6400 (tickets).