Special exhibition

The thin skin of the earth - our soils

20. January until 23. July 2017

Special exhibition, Senckenberg Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Wolfgang Steubing Hall

Soils are truly multi-talented: they enable plant growth, filter pollutants from water and provide a habitat for a wide variety of organisms. The special exhibition “The Thin Skin of the Earth – Our Soils” provides exciting insights into the hidden world beneath our feet from January 20 to August 13, 2017. In four themed chambers, information about the diversity of life in the soil, its function and formation is vividly presented. The use of soil by humans and the damage caused by this is also a central theme. Numerous interactive exhibits present various soil inhabitants and soil types and reveal what each individual can do to protect the soil.

What lives in the soil, what decomposition processes take place there and what does all this have to do with us humans? More than you might think, because soil forms part of our basis of life: living organisms hidden in the soil decompose organic material and make it available to plants in the form of nutrients. This creates fertile soil. However, humans destroy large quantities of this precious resource every year through the use of pesticides, erosion, sealing and soil compaction.

The new exhibition at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum uses interactive stations, animations, short films and information boards to illustrate everything worth knowing about the earth. Right at the beginning of the discovery tour, visitors can expect an impressive transformation: they are shrunk to the size of a woodlouse. This process – which is of course reversible – makes it possible to explore the cave and crevice system of the ground. At the same time, the scale jump makes tiny ground dwellers visible, which are presented in models enlarged a thousandfold. With a maximum length of four millimetres, the dark brown puffer is easy to overlook in nature. Magnification even reveals the long, sparse hairs on the insect’s round body, which can catapult itself to safety with a mighty leap in the event of danger. In a spectacular scene, the ground becomes the scene of the crime: a predatory mite clutches a springtail with its long legs to suck it out – in a model magnified 500 times.