Special Exhibit

The Secret World Inside You

Now Open

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The Secret World Inside You will take visitors on a tour of the human body, making stops at places where microbes thrive: your skin—which, covering about 20 square feet, is your largest organ—and your mouth and your gastrointestinal tract, which is home to your body’s densest and most diverse microbial community, among others.

The exhibition also will explore where our microbiomes come from. Most babies encounter their first big batch of microbes during birth, when they are coated with microbes from the mother’s birth canal, or, if born by caesarean section, from the skin of their mother, doctors, and others who touch them. New work also has shown that breast milk, in addition to providing nutrition for the baby, contains complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested by infants but are readily consumed by the dominant species of bacteria in the infant microbiome—evidence that we coevolved to live with these organisms.

How do your interactions with microbes—from the type of environment where you grew up to the number of times you have taken an antibiotic, which destroys both bad and good bacteria—influence your health? In what ways can your microbiome be said to be its own organ? And is it possible that the state of the bacteria in your gut plays a role in your mental health?

The Secret World Inside You will explore these intriguing questions and more with interactive activities, videos, and a live theater where a presenter will show visitors how scientists are navigating this exciting new field of research.

The Secret World Inside You is co-curated by Susan Perkins and Rob DeSalle, curators in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. The exhibition will be open to the public from November 7, 2015, to August 14, 2016. 

Generous support for The Secret World Inside You and its educational resources have been provided by the Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation and the Milstein Family.

The Secret World Inside You is proudly supported by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

The Secret World Inside You is supported by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).