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Invisible World of Water

November 13, 2021–April 17, 2022

invisible world of water white snow flake on black background

The first project in the Academy of Natural Sciences’ yearlong focus on water renews our appreciation for the vital element of water through artworks that combine the marvel and insight of both scientific and artistic inquiry.

Centered around two micro-phenomena — snow crystals and diatoms — the exhibition will present parallel histories of observation and show the interplay between the micro-cosmic and macro-cosmic. Diatoms — microalgae — the wondrous jewels of water encased in glass, exist in virtually every body of water, lie at the heart of the food chain and generate a major portion of the world’s oxygen. They are often compared to snow crystals. 

The exhibition includes illustrations from rare books (by Robert Hooke, Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg and Ernst Haeckel); Victorian-era arranged diatom slides by Harold Dalton and others; microphotographs by Snowflake Bentley and Ukichiro Nakaya; artifacts documenting the groundbreaking research of diatom scientist Ruth Patrick; contemporary ceramic sculpture by Marguerita Hagan; stop-motion imagery by physicist Kenneth Libbrecht; and high-resolution photography by Nathan Myhrvold. The Invisible World of Water considers the hidden connections and the flow between water, land and air through Earth’s hydrosphere.

The Academy of Natural Sciences’ important role in waterway ecology began with Ruth Patrick, a diatom researcher who advocated for an integrated, holistic approach to waterway health in her groundbreaking work in ecology.

All exhibits are included with the purchase of a general admission ticket.

Members receive free admission to Invisible World of Water. Not a member? Join now!
Current members, check out the Members’ Guide for more information about your admission benefits.