A giant spider currently stands guard outside the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, its 8 large eyes watching visitors as they enter. Once inside, over-sized beetles, butterflies and other insects dominate the space, as part of the “Bugs…Outside the Box” exhibit.
These intricate sculptures, created by Italian artist Lorenzo Possenti, can be up to twenty times larger than their tiny counterparts. The exhibit challenges human beings to create a connection between themselves and the massive bugs.
Jennifer Tregarthen, head of Public Relations at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, says that at the opening many people that were hesitant to approach the sculptures, but eventually their curiosity overcame their fears.
“We’ve never done a bug exhibit before. Since many of our visitors are families and people who bring their children, bugs are an exciting topic for them, and they love exploring them. It was a natural fit!”
One visitor to the museum, Allison Gale, is admittedly not the biggest fan of bugs, but after visiting the exhibit, she says she appreciates them more.
"A lot of times with bugs, they’re so small you can see the different features they have up close." Gale says. "When they’re enlarged like in these sculptures you really get a look at them from a different point of view. I’m still grossed out by bugs in the house, but beetles, I actually think they’re pretty cool now because you get to see the crazy colors that they are. They’re actually kind of pretty.”
Organizers of the exhibit hope to continue to change the opinions of people like Gale, encouraging understanding and appreciation of these often-feared creatures. The museum’s Curator of Recent Invertebrates, Katrina Menard is just glad to see that others are starting to see the beauty of insects that she has known for years.
Menard suggests that getting over fears about bugs is essential to understanding how incredible these creatures are and that the more visitors stare at these huge sculptures, the more they appreciate insects outside of the exhibit.
“I was born as one of those people that loved bugs so for me it’s kind of like, duh!" Menard says." I personally like beetles. This one here highlights what different modifications they can have to try and attract females, fight other males. Either with large arms which they use to wrap around there females to protect them from other males, or large antennae used to sense females or wrap around them, or even large jaws to grab and flip males.”
Jennifer Tregarthen hopes that seeing these animals in larger-than-life scale, visitors to the museum can begin to think about these them more deeply, sparking further curiosity.
“When you’re learning about them, you are learning about the architecture of the insects, the armor of the insects." Explains Tregarthen. "Why do they have that? Why are they camouflaged? How do they adapt to the environment? Then they become apart of your life. You realize this is why they are here. They’re not pests, but protectors.”