Annual open house offers a rare look at some of the fossils, specimens and insects in a collection that contains 9 million species

In a building filled with fish skeletons, fossils, pinned butterflies and bat skulls, live insects are often the biggest attraction, says Meg Daly, director of Ohio State University’s Museum of Biological Diversity. On Saturday, the museum will be open to the public for its annual one-day open house, and as in past years, the exhibits will include an “Arthropod Petting Zoo” where visitors can encounter exciting insects such as giant hissing cockroaches.

“This is the first time the kids can see these things up close in an environment where it’s not scary,” says Daly, “and be curious rather than terrified.”

The live insects are just one element in a rich collection that contains examples of more than 9 million species. While it’s called a museum, the Museum of Biological Diversity is actually a research collection, with its many preserved specimens stored in drawers, boxes, jars and cabinets rather than kept on display for visitors. Private tours are possible, but the museum is generally not open to the public. So for those curious about creepy-crawlies and such, the annual open house is often a hotly anticipated event—and many come back, year after year.

This year’s theme is “Magnified,” and the first 1,500 visitors will be issued magnifying glasses to help them examine the specimens. They will be able to look at fossils through microscopes, and to tour the inside of a bat skull through a form of virtual reality. “We’re trying to focus on stuff you don’t usually see,” says Daly.

Scientists and faculty members will be on hand to answer questions about acarology (ticks and mites), Crustacea, birds and mammals, spiders, snails and mussels, ants, and many other creatures. Visitors will be able to hear some of the tens of thousands of recorded bird and animal sounds in the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics. And special activities are planned to engage those looking for a more interactive experience: make-your-own microbes, bugs-in-goo, face painting, and, of course, food trucks. Visitors can also take home a mealworm, so they can watch it become a beetle.

Daly, whose own research has focused on jellyfish and corals, says she hopes that visitors will take away a simple message: that the world is amazing. “It’s filled with amazing things,” she says, “and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s there.”

The open house will take place on Saturday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 1315 Kinnear Road. Admission and parking are free.

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