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A chain of microbial museums in every ecological region across the world

Image credit: Cultures showcased at Micropia, from Instagram

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Nov 24, 2020
We all are familiar with microbes to some extent, albeit with a general notion that they are the bad guys that bring illness and disease which is a bit unfair given the countless beneficial microorganisms that we harbour in our own body and our environment. Could we change this (under-informed) public perception around microbes by establishing museums dedicated to microbes? Well, in 2014 in Amsterdam Netherlands, with the aim of this exact paradigm-shift, one such museum was opened. Known as Micropia, this museum claims to be the first of its kind in the world, and houses more than 300 different microbial species cultured, curated and showcased on a routine basis. Taking inspiration from this example, I propose an idea of establishing a global (or at least a national-level) chain of such museums in every ecologically distinct part of the world. What such a museum would do:
  • Source as many species of culturable microbes as possible from the ecological location (within its defined perimeter), culture them and preserve them in the specialized museum campus
  • Collaborate with local microbiologists and scientists to organise microbe watching ceremonies with an aim of educating people about the microbial role in the ecology and public health
  • Work as a repository of unique microbial signature of that geographical/ecological region
  • Collaborate with interested artists and designers to use these microbial cultures in the most aesthetically appealing manner
Such microbial museum would be the microbial equivalent to the conventional museums: just like the regular museums (and galleries) showcase the unique history, religious practices, traditions and lifestyles of given geographic and historical place (and time), the microbial museums would serve as the platform to showcase and preserve the microbial diversity, their beauty and the richness of the natural microscopic world. The reason I propose to establish a chain of such museums is that they would serve as the representatives of each ecological region (for the fact that different strains are prevalent in different ecological niches), all the while opening up really cool space where art and science can meet and flourish. In the future, I even envisage global/international events hosted by these museums and global agar-culture competitions!

What do you think of this idea? Could we really build such museums to appreciate the beauty and importance of our dear microscopic friends? Can you think of any innovative design components for such a facility?
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Nitish
Nitish3 months ago
This idea definitely sounds cool but has certain limitations of its own. Such places' maintenance would be a tough task as all the known cultivable microbes are not that much friendly and need extra care. While a lot of people will visit these museums a little contamination could lead to a catastrophe. Moreover, culture viability and sustainability would also be another matter to handle carefully. In overall, with a humongous variety of microflora available, this idea seems to me not only conceivable but also a good opportunity to built a direct connection between us and our usually invisible partners.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 months ago
I like the idea. As an add-on feature, there can be a separate section for pre-historic microbes including those associated with dinosaurs. Although it is debated whether the microbes were really associated with the dinosaurs or whether the dinosaur fossils/ bones were contaminated with modern bacteria during the excavation. However, some bacterial species were found inside a fossilized bone, which puts more weightage on the thought that these species might have thrived inside the living dinosaur. Also, a recent study has identified some of the available DNA and show that it is a close match with Euzebya, a bacterium that has been found in tombs. (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-bone-microbes-debate/570037/) Anyhow, it will be interesting to observe these species in the proposed museum.