About the Exhibition

Part of the The Power of Poison exhibition.

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This striking exhibition explores poison’s paradoxical roles in nature, human health and history, literature, and myth. Whether as a defense against predators, a source of magical strength, or a lethal weapon used as lifesaving medical treatment, the story of poison is surprising at every turn.

Discover the toxic species that live in a remote Colombian forest, where poisons are just one of many tools in organisms’ struggles to survive. Learn about a variety of evolutionary strategies that serve animals and plants and see live animals, including a gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), Flame Butterfly caterpillars (Dryas iulia), and others up close.

Find out which familiar tales of illness, enchantment, or death by poison—a feature of countless fairy tales, myths, and legends from around the world—contain kernels of truth.

Explore some of history’s most intriguing poisoning cases, many of which remain puzzling today.

Take part in a live presentation about a real-world poisoning case and key advances in toxicology, or the science of detecting poison.

And finally, learn how studying poison’s effects on human cells helps scientists figure out how to protect, repair, and heal them.

The Power of Poison is on view at the American Museum of Natural History from November 16, 2013, through August 10, 2014.