Active, attractive, memorable: MUSE Trento displays multimedia exhibits, interactive games and hands-on experiences – all based on a mix of knowledge with a 'do-it-yourself' approach.
Fresh from the success of The Shard in London – Western Europe's tallest skyscraper – architect Renzo Piano follows it up with the realisation of MUSE Trento in his native Italy. Trento, the capital of Trentino, close to the stupendous Dolomites, has pulled off a coup in securing the services of this visionary architect.
The building is a perfect blend of open spaces and exhibition functions, with great sloping roofs that recall the outline of the surrounding mountains. The daring project does not disappoint its creator. In his own words: "We've spent a decade on this project, from the museum to the regeneration and re-envisioning of the district. In Italian terms, it's a miracle that the project has been accomplished so smoothly, without a slip up, thanks to superb teamwork."
The Renzo Piano-designed project – commissioned by the Autonomous province of Trento – puts the city back on the international map. Far more than a Science Museum, MUSE Trento is a bold statement of intent. The region of Trentino realises that investment in culture reaps rewards, and the results go beyond a cutting-edge museum and the regeneration of an old industrial district. The museum sits at the heart of a new urban park, residential and entertainment area that will reshape the city; the project also reconnects the city of Trento with its landscape.
Shifting views of Monte Bondone will tempt visitors to explore the
Dolomite peaks, while the LEED Gold-certified building of MUSE Trento is a perfect blend of open space and exhibition function, with great sloping roofs that recall the outline of the surrounding mountains; it is also state of the art as regards to energy saving and the use of renewable energy sources.
The MUSE Trento Science Museum is deeply rooted in the reality of the Dolomites, presenting glaciers and extreme Alpine experiences as part of its remit. With its jagged, futuristic forms, even the design of the building seems to pay a tribute to the surrounding mountains. But MUSE Trento aspires to be much more than 'just' a museum: expect a major visitor attraction, a multimedia experience and a beacon of scientific excellence.
As a bold research centre, MUSE Trento harbours lofty planetary ambitions, exploring everything from the birth of the solar system to the Alpine eco-systems, as well as the themes of sustainability and global warming. Its more concrete goal is to reposition Trento as a dynamic cultural and scientific centre on the world stage.
➼A MUSEUM FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
A New Museum Experience
The exhibitions of MUSE Trento stimulate curiosity and encourage dialogue on nature, science and innovation topics. Together with the other great institutions of the province (such as MART – the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rovereto – and the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento city centre), this museums is an attraction deeply rooted in the local reality and situated at the heart of a lively region to be enjoyed throughout the year.
The exhibitions favour a hands-on approach to science, educational and engaging at once. This jagged peak of a building is designed to be explored vertically: the visit starts at the top – as if on a mountain summit – and descends to the rainforest below, while learning in the process how habitats change according to altitude.
Expect extreme sensations. See how it feels to leap from a rock face on a paraglider. You could be pitched into the icy atmosphere of a 3,000-metre peak – or feel as if you are hurtling down snow slopes like an extreme skier.
This is a sensory journey through science and nature, with a bag full of multimedia tricks. Touch a glacier with your own hands. Walk through a tropical greenhouse and listen to the sounds of the rainforest. Mingle with dinosaurs in an area that still displays fossilised dinosaur footprints.
The exhibitions trace back life in the Dolomites from the days of the dinosaurs, featuring fossils, rock paintings and prehistoric evidence found in situ, as well as presenting Neanderthal Man. Stilt dwellings on Lake Ledro date from around 2000 BC, attesting to the presence of local Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements.
Evolutionary history is brought home with the largest exhibition of dinosaurs in the Alps. Fossilised footprints from these creatures have long been an attraction on a walking trail south of Rovereto; now, the dinosaur footprints here become part of the full dinosaur story, with authentic finds counterpointed by engrossing multimedia displays. Among many other pieces, the cast replicas of 3 large reptiles are on display: a Triceratops and an Ophtalmosaurus from America as well as a Dilophosaurus moulded directly from the original specimen in China. The principle that is being followed is that of "zero gravity", placing the animals on display on a sort of imaginary mountain; the skeleton of a whale is suspended at the centre of the exhibition too.
➼MUSING ON THE MUSE
A Mountain of Science
The exhibition route connects the Alpine region to the rest of the world, linking local sensitivities and problems to global commitment – all in the name of sustainable development.
According to Renzo Piano, culture is a springboard for relaunching Italy's economic recovery and MUSE Trento, a museum for the third millennium, can play a vital part in this, and perform this same role for the local economy of Trentino.
The museum's messages are inextricably bound up with the Alpine heritage, broader environmental issues and sustainable development. Although the museum presents the natural world through the prism of science, this is science applied to ethical, social and global issues. The museum explores the relationship between nature, science and society, and also considers the impact of science on everyday life.
A Visit to the MUSE Trento
The visit route within MUSE Trento uses the metaphor of a mountain to tell the history of life on Planet Earth. One can start the visit from the top: the terrace and the fourth level make us encounter sun and ice; then we descend, to delve progressively into the depths of pivotal themes such as biodiversity, sustainable development, evolution – all the way down to the subterranean floor, where we can explore the marvels of the tropical glasshouse.
Level 5: the Terrace.
The panoramic Terrace of MUSE Trento overlooks the Valle dell'Adige (Adige valley), the main axis of Trentino, allowing a spectacular view at 360 degrees over the surrounding mountains.
The Terrace is open to the public and it will be a transversal place. It may also host exhibitions and other activities, or – in the future – even be rented for private events.
Level 4: High Peaks.
On the Peaks of the Dolomites: this is a journey through a tunnel or along a narrow outfitted passage to feel the excitement of high altitude trekking – with glaciers, forests, sounds and sensations of the Alpine landscape.
Also at this level: an Adventure Among the Ices; Climate and Living Organisms; Exploration and Research (read below).
Adventure in the Ices
To make the geological and biological elements of the Alpine environment known is the intent and the objective of the ‘highest’ exhibition spaces within the museum – those that accompany the visitor to the peaks, conquering him or her with those living sensations that can normally be savoured only when climbing in altitude. Level +4 is the place in which the multi-sensorial trip of MUSE Trento starts; full immersion in the montane environment is immediate. Entering the great tunnel “Glacial Experience” – a multi-vision space ten meters long – one finds oneself hovering high above the Alps.
Among the sounds and impressions of the living space in evolution, the visitor passes from breathtakingly gliding over the Dolomitic rocks – above glaciers and forests – to a nosediving descent along the steepest, most extreme cliffs, until flanking the imposing and terrible experience of the avalanches. Outside the tunnel, one then walks along an equipped passage route.
Suspended 23 metres high, at the limit of the great central void of MUSE Trento, this passage allows one to experience the sensation of vertigo that comes from high altitude landscapes: a brave, daring advance between abyss and a true glacial front, among rocks and vegetation, allows one to observe the biologic and geomorphologic elements that characterise the areas modelled by the fluctuations of the glaciers. With bare hands, one can then feel the cold surface of an ice sheet, and even get to caress a chamois on the mountain slopes.
Climate and Living Organisms
In the exhibits – enriched by images, videos and counts from moments of activity of glaciological research – the stimuli to arouse curiosity are many: from the interactive mechanical instruments that reveal the symmetry in a snow crystal to the 'cosmic rays detector', which shows the rain of particles coming from the space that precipitate on our heads at each moment. Like in a voyage backwards in time, the Museum route also proposes a reconstruction of the climate of the past. With that goal in mind, the MUSE Trento is the only museum in Italy to display part of an ice core taken in the Antarctica by an Italian researchers' team.
A multimedia apparatus will provide visitors the opportunity to see which are the main organisms able to survive and accomplish their entire life cycle at the margins and over the surface of a glacier. One can also observe insects and spiders moving along over the ice sheet, and there is the possibility to access information and curiosities regarding the life conditions of these little but useful animals.
A thematic table shows visitors that biodiversity in high altitude habitats is represented by organisms well-adapted to live in extreme conditions. Through the presence of some insect model species – enlarged twenty times the original size – the visitor will have a chance to observe which are the adaptations that these small animal have developed in order to survive in very cold, windy conditions and with intense ultraviolet radiation. Beside each reproduction, there will also be the possibility to observe the real insect.
Exploration and Research
The high altitudes have long fascinated travellers and explorers, allowing them to approach the peaks and the glaciers, and pushed the most dedicated ones to venture on to the most extreme enterprises, for some of which many have received prizes and awards. Travellers and explorers have been the first to get into contact with this frozen world, characterised by harsh environmental conditions, but fascinating and mysterious at the same time; inaccessible to most, and yet in constant relationship with man and the other ecosystems on the planet.
Curiosity, passion, a desire for discovery and spirit of adventure can push still today men and women towards the conquest of the highest peaks. At the end of the exhibition route, therefore, interesting references to those explorers who first have confronted unknown Alpine valleys and reached unexplored mountain summits will not be missing; amongst these, there are video-diaries of ‘historic’ climbers, but on display are also the mountaineering gear that were once used – such as old crampons, pick-axes, hemp-ropes and rock nails.
Level 3: Alpine Nature.
Alpine Nature: The biodiversity labyrinth as a rich mosaic of different environments from which to observe the Alps' wild animals and plants.
Also at this level: in the Labyrinth of Alpine Biodiversity; Changing with the Seasons; Exploring the Woodland (read below).
In the Labyrinth of Alpine Biodiversity
Life in the Alps and its Uniqueness
In the Alps, it is possible to pass within a few kilometres from habitats of the Sub-mediterranean coasts to snowy uplands. The Alps in general – and Trentino in particular – enclose a veritable vertical mosaic of different habitats, populated by numerous animal and plant species, perfectly adapted and for this reason unique. In the gallery “Labyrinth of Alpine Biodiversity” is being proposed an imagined descent along a mountain trail in which follow – fusing into one another and creating reciprocal interconnections – 26 different habitats, enriched also by 2 aquaria.
The atmospheric arrangement aims at allowing visitors to re-live the emotions felt in nature – like meeting wild animals, listen to their calling, be witness of a predatory act or spy the courting rituals. Each habitat is revealed in an intuitive and suggestive way, using ways of communicating that range from the more traditional stuffed animals – ‘frozen’ in plastic postures – to more modern technologies, with interactive virtual surfaces.
Change with the Seasons: Adaptations and Survival Strategies
The strong differences that mark the seasons in the Alps make life at some times of the year particularly difficult for living creatures. Numerous and diverse are the strategies and the adaptations that plants and animals had to develop in order to survive, with some surprising solutions in order to make the most of the favourable periods.
The heightened seasonality of the Alpine habitats is being treated here like a trait-d'-union on the boards and screens that aim at giving an in-depth view of the phenomena of migration, flowering times and pollination, life in the water and temperature regulation. Natural finds, stuffed animals and replicas, documentaries and video-diaries, interactive exhibit and multimedia games will all allow to deepen the study of the adaptations in habitats that change drastically with the alternating seasons, and to comprehend the physical phenomena that are at the basis of those.
The gallery is composed of 4 thematic in-depth units:
➼ Birds: adaptations to flight and migration;
➼ Alpine plants: a short summer in which to blossom and produce seeds;
➼ Lakes and torrents: how the life of aquatic micro-organisms changes with the seasons;
➼ Terrestrial vertebrates: how to survive at low temperatures in a high-altitude mountain environment.
Exploring the Woodland
Explore With the Senses
The gallery “Explore the Woodland” is dedicated to the desire for knowledge and the pleasure of discovery. It is a space designed on purpose for the small visitors (4-9 years), to be used individually, with the parents or in the presence of a facilitator. The space has as a finality to allow children to explore the natural world that surrounds them through the senses. The general atmosphere of the room is engaging, as it stimulates the curiosity of children and naturally facilitates ‘scientific’ discoveries.
“Explore the Woodland” contains several exhibits, some of them interconnected, amongst which an interactive multimedia game, a series of containers and supports of various shapes with original finds and replicas to be observed and manipulated, instruments for measuring, 'peluche' animals to be touched, sounds to activate, scents to smell, lights to be modified and also a series of animal costumes to stimulate the symbolic and simulation game. It is a real “room of discoveries”, rich in suggestions, natural finds and experiences to be tried and tested.
The long history of the Dolomites, a UNESCO heritage site: ancient mountains, volcanoes, deserts, tropical seas and coral reefs are to be discovered in an interactive way.
Level 2: The Long History of the Dolomites.
There is a section on environmental hazards and emergency operations too; this area reveals to visitors the hard work of civil defence operators.
Geology of the Dolomites
The Alps in general – and the Dolomites in particular – represent a unicum in the world for their geological characteristics, paleonthology and their landscape; a value accredited by the declaration of UNESCO Heritage Site signed in 2009. The exhibit on the second floor introduces you to the knowledge of the evolution of the Alps through a journey rich in multimedia experiences, and accompanied by a rigorous choice of objects belonging to geology (such as rocks, fossils, minerals).
It is an invitation to discover – while also having fun – the evolution of the geologic habitats of the past: ancient mountains, volcanoes, deserts, tropical seas, coral reefs and oceanic depths. The exhibition allows one to enter into the geo-dynamic processes that followed the inane pressures generated during Alpine orogenesis, which have led the ancient sea floors to rise above sea level and – by folding and fracturing – to form the Alpine chain. This part of the exhibition route offers an insight also into the geomorphologic processes that have taken place during the more recent period of the history of Planet Earth, which are still active to this day: glacialism, Karst and other phenomena such as landslides. Their combined action has shaped the Alpine landscape as we still know it and see it today.
A video broadcasts the geological story of the Dolomites, from the remotest memories related to the dinosaurs to the most recent glaciations, up until Prehistoric times. Enriching the route are also two aquaria: the first reproduces a tropical reef with salty water and contains a typical coral reef eco-system – the rock formation that went to constitute the Dolomite massifs –; the second is a reconstruction of the typical environment of rock caves.
Environmental Risks and the Work of the ‘Protezione Civile’
Managing the Inevitable, and Avoiding the Unmanageable
Italy is subjected to different calamitous events, natural or caused by man. This gallery presents the environmental risks, and deals with the activities of forecasting, prevention and intervention on the part of the ‘Protezione Civile’, as well as the procedures to be respected in the case of an alert and/or an emergency. Through graphic animation, some interactive multimedia allow the viewer to enter a ‘live’ simulation, directly in the control room of the ‘Protezione Civile’ during the handling of an emergency; the visitors can discover how a weather forecast is being crafted, when and how alerts are being issued, and also comprehend why an efficient system of forecasts of risks is based on detailed knowledge of the territory and the individuation of the areas which are more ‘naturally’ dangerous.
A series of films bring us the stories of different natural and anthropic disasters that have taken place over the Italian territory, with the accounts of people who were involved in the events and also interviews of university researchers. Lastly, the visitor will be able to interact with a couple of experimental exhibits: one can thus discover the physical principles that lay at the basis of typically Alpine phenomena such as debris flow or snow avalanches, otherwise one can also observe the functioning of an embankment ('briglia') – works that were erected along the torrents and streams for the protection against sudden floods events, which are recurrent in Italy.
How can disastrous events be faced? An interactive multimedia station allows to put oneself in the ‘shoes’ of the staff of the ‘Protezione Civile’ and to understand how to manage different types of natural risks. We could therefore find ourselves taking decisions by acquiring and getting to know weather data, or gathering hydro-geological information and seismic activity forecasts; or again, contacting and sending rescuing aids or squads of firemen, geological experts, or still forestry commission staff.
How do we protect ourselves from floods in a mountainous environment? This gallery displays an experimental interactive exhibit that represents protection against flood in a mountainous setting. The visitor will be able to experiment how – in the case of heavy precipitation – the system of embankments ('briglie') built alongside Alpine torrents and streams functions, and how it is erected in defence of towns and settlements, while also observing a simulation of what would happen if these 'briglie' were not there…
Resources from the Underground
The underground resources – also documented on the second floor – introduce us to the relationship between man and nature, one of the dominant topics at MUSE Trento. Some of the greatest conquests of humanity pass in fact through the discovery of a geological resource – such as metals or building materials. At the beginning of the gallery a timeline enriched with archaeological finds, some antiques and modern industrial products guides visitors through the history of mining activities in the Alps, with a sketch on the fundamental stages of its development also in the rest of the world.
The work of miners is told through the objects that were part of their daily life, from helmets to lamps, to the instruments used for the surveys. From the mines – by now part of the economic past of the Alps – we move on to the mines of ornamental stones, still a very important economic resource known all over the world.
It is possible to visit virtually the excavation digs and the urban environment of Trento, whose aspect is still strongly influenced by the use of local stone. From local to global, the gallery shows how in the world of today mining activities are still fundamental. A map and an interactive periodic table reveal which and where are found the strategic resources in the era of new technologies, while one discovers how unsuspected objects of everyday use owe their characteristics to the properties of minerals. The aesthetic side of minerals is not being overlooked either, giving space to splendid specimens coming from mines that still supply the collectors and the precious stones’ market.
Level 1: From the First Men in the Alps to Global Future.
Inside the time machine: go back to the main phases of mankind's cultural, economic and social evolution – then return to the present to look at current issues.
Also at this level: Alpine Pre-history; Behind the Scenes of Research; Sustainable Development and Innovation; 'Fab-lab' & Showroom (read below).
The 'Fab-lab' is a cutting edge laboratory to to shape up your ideas.
The NOAA Sphere, on the contrary, is an interactive space that portrays possible future weather scenarios using projections and animated images.
A Leap Into the Past
spiralling structure invites visitors to enter into the world of
Prehistory. The main findings, kept in the former museum of Sciences in Trento, are
exposed here in windows that illustrate the main phases of the cultural,
economic and social evolution during Prehistory in the Alps: the
presence of the Neanderthal man on the Southern Alpine massifs during
the hottest and latest phases of the last glacial period of the Middle
Palaeolithic; the arrival of Homo sapiens at the end of the great
glaciations of the Upper Palaeolithic and its diffusion inside the
Alpine valleys during the Mesolithic; the introduction of agriculture
and the raising of animals during the Neolithic and the great
technological innovation represented by the working of metals during
Multi-media set-ups provide a thematic in-depth look, suggested by the findings that are being exposed, and the reproduction of human figure – intent on daily activities – enrich the exhibition route, introducing the visitor to a full immersion experience where some videos create the suggestion and the emotion of living in Prehistoric times. Two aquaria host species typical of lakes in archaeological contexts: a high-altitude site in the first; an environment of palafittes in the second.
The Time Machine
An emotional journey through time to discover the life of our Prehistoric forefathers, from the Neanderthal hunters to the shamans of the Dalmeri shelter ('Rifugio Dalmeri'); the hunts at high-altitudes and the working of clay; life in the palafittes and the votive pyres of Proto-historic age.
Behind the Screen of Research
The scientific museums are places of research and documentation. The collections are the results of campaigns, in which the collection of material and study take place within the framework of certain research projects. The items collected are the material evidence for different natural or anthropic environments – of fossil and mineral deposits for instance, and other human activities. Their study allows to evaluate the state of the environment, to document the past and to provide prediction models. Together with the archive of data produced by the activities of monitoring and research, the collections constitute the pivotal element in order to study the territory and develop new scientific knowledge. The area with the research laboratories and the display cabinets in front of it invite the visitor to get closer to the scientific activities of the museum, in order to get to know aspects which are normally accessed only by the researchers and those more directly involved.
The four research laboratories are dedicated to the study of fauna (vertebrates and invertebrates), botany, limnology, geology, palaeontology and Pre-history. The internal glass walls have been created in order to favour the participation of visitors to the daily work of the scientists based at the museum, while they carry out their research. The public will be able to interact with the researchers in periodical appointments, devised in order to make the scientific activities of the museum known, and facilitate the discovery of what happens in research behind the scenes.
In front of the research laboratories are positioned twenty display cases and a hundred drawers which host Pre-historic, geologic, biologic and palaeontology finds. The general public will be allowed to examine these close-by, in order to witness the cultural and scientific importance of the finds and to recognise natural objects and artefacts as they are observed or found in nature.
The NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – researchers have developed a software that illustrates the sciences of the Earth for the visitors of all ages. On a large sphere are alternated videos of our planet in real time, animated images of atmospheric storms, the consequences of climatic changes, the movement of continents and much more. The sphere-shaped screen over which the films are being shown allows a clear visualisation of the dynamics of natural processes at global level.
‘Fab-lab’ and Showroom
The research centres and the firms that operate on the territory of Trentino – with their international relations – are the guests of a space in which they can present their experiences and entertain a dialogue with the visitors. Eventually, in the ‘Fab-lab’ laboratory everyone will be able to be the protagonist of one’s own innovative technology. Thanks to the possibility of planning and printing in 3D one’s inventions, there will be a chance to create one’s own tailor-made technological objects. One will also be able to download an object produced in America or China, for instance, and print it in 3D in the ‘Fab-lab’. The very concept of ‘open source’ is thus being expanded, and from the software we move on to the hardware.
Here you can imagine a future in which you create the objects that most interest you. This vision of the future is not so far removed from reality: thanks to the ‘Fab-lab’ – a laboratory of digital products – you can now draw, download from the Internet, modify and print in 3D objects in order to make them real.
Sustainability and Innovation
A Man at the Measure of the Environment
The obvious changes in the soil equilibrium, in the oceans, in the atmosphere, in the bio-geo-chemical cycles – besides the excessive loss of biodiversity due to anthropic pressure – are all reflected in the stability of Planet Earth as a system. The intrinsic correlations and the elevated complexity of the natural systems make any forecast difficult.
Attempting an answer to this issue is the pulsating heart of this exhibit: a suspended interactive sphere shows visitors data related to complex environmental systems in an intuitive and fascinating way, while all around are confronted the themes of economy, society and technology, involving the viewer in a voyage in search for a paradigm that contemplates the very notion of limit and a culture of complexity.
Level 0: General Information and Science Center.
The "science gymnasium" is a hands-on exhibit to experiment with the effects of several physical phenomena.
Here is also the "MAXI OOH!", for children aged 0 to 5 (and adults!) wishing to experience together a unique sensory environment focused on creativity and relationship.
Level -1: History of Life.
Evolution, dinosaurs, DNA: starting with the formation of planet Earth, this level goes all the way to the appearance of mammals. Some primordial cell forms, full scale dinosaur skeletons, mammals, fossil footprints and marine reptiles of the warm seas that once covered Trentino: a voyage across 4,5 billion years. And to conclude, an immersion in the story of the DNA.
Traces of Life
Memories of a Lifetime
The fascinating history of life; a complex evolution of forms, regulated by dramatic environmental changes, mutable geographies and fortuitous occasions is being presented here. Chase memories by following the thread of the evolution of man, in a past which is 5 billion of years old.
In this gallery, the fossil remains will accompany us in an incredible journey in the depth of time, from the appearance of the first molecules to the evolution of dinosaurs and mammals, following the common thread of ‘our’ story – that of a strange thinking mammal.
The first exhibitions on this floor depict the natural phenomena that led to the formation of Planet Earth and, just after half a billion years later, to the origin of the first forms of life. After evidence of some of the most ancient traces of life on Earth – the stromatolites – are encountered the mysterious life forms of Ediacara, dating circa 600 millions of years ago: a different structural organization altogether that tells us of an alternative way to be “animal”.
The incredible variety of fauna tells the great theme of the explosion of life in the seas. The bizarre organisms of the Burgess Shale Fauna – an extraordinary laboratory of evolution, more than 500 million of years old – lead to the discovery of arthropodes with fairy tale forms, and to the first representatives of the animal group to which we also belong, the Cordates. The encounter with these bizarre fishes deprived of jaws belonging to the Silurian period and those endowed with a cuirasse of the subsequent Devonian period is key to the discovery of a biodiversity which is largely extinct today.
To tell the following chapter in the long evolutionary history are small plants with neither leaves nor flowers, insects without wings and stocky amphibians. Meeting and getting to know their forms leads the visitor to retrace the first steps of a new era – that of Planet Earth, which was on the process of being populated.
The part dedicated to the terrestrial reptiles represents one of the greatest archives, at European level, of fossil imprints of Paleozoic and Mesozoic reptiles and dinosaurs. On the traces of these great animals one can recognize their characteristic imprints and admire the imposing skeletons at natural height. The gallery of dinosaurs leads to a journey among different habitats, exceptional discoveries and traces of these animals' passing through the Italian territory (the Dolomites in particular), where – until the end of the last century – evidence of their presence was deemed unlikely.
With the marine reptiles we immerse ourselves in the waters of the Triassic: Nothosaurs, Plesiosaurs, and Ittiosaurs – the seas were then filled with smaller and bigger reptiles with surprising habits and ways of life.
Dinosaurs and Marine Reptiles
Dinosaurs and marine reptiles accompany the visitor all the way to the mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Tertiary: a catastrophic event in the history of life on Earth. With the extinction of dinosaurs, the long chapter of the evolutionary history of mammals begins. The rapid diversification of this group is being narrated by fossil and actual specimens that illustrate the evolution of the different reproductive strategies, as well as of eating habits and ways of displacing.
In a nutshell: man among primates; primates among mammals – and the mammals as a unique branch of a greater, intricate family tree whose roots sink deep in the remotest time: this is the time of the history of life.
Also on Level -1: DNA: This Small Yet Big Secret of Life; the Glasshouse and the Large Tropical Aquariums (read below).
DNA: This Small Yet Big Secret of Life
“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” These questions are often heard, and behind them are special stories, unveiled by the study of DNA. The “Gallery of DNA” offers visitors a captivating experience, mediated by an empathetic story on the unifying aspect of DNA towards all forms of life – including ours. The first visual experience is the ‘Tree of Life’ – a dynamic projection nine metres long, which reveals the incessant unfolding of the evolutionary tracks and the connections that exist between more or less similar species.
The uniqueness of DNA, its mechanics, the way it works, and the evolutionary processes involved in it are at the centre of three multimedia audio-visual installations with the title “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”. The stories are enriched by objects and finds connected to the story of DNA, also ‘special’ as they are different form all the other stories that the visitor encounters throughout the museum. As for the DNA, how much of it do we share with other organisms? What do the human heart and – say – a shell have in common? This and many other questions are addressed here, and answers are attempted in the “Gallery of DNA”.
The Tropical Glasshouse
Udzungwa, an African Pluvial Forest
In the tropical glasshouse is reproduced a fragment of Udzungwa, the pluvial forest in the mountains of Central Africa. With a surface of 600 sq meters, the tropical glasshouse recreated in the MUSE Trento exemplifies a stretch of Mount Udzungwa – a center of diversity and endemism in Tanzania, Oriental Tropical Africa. By entering the glasshouse, the visitors are immediately greeted by the hot and humid embrace of the Tropics, and they can thus experience the uncontaminated forests of Tropical Africa, among waterfalls and vertical cliffs, whirling waters and a lush forest floor. The itinerary starts from the Kilombero valley to then continue in the humid sub-montane forest, meeting all the while a kaleidoscopic diversity of forms and colours, belonging to unique plants and animals.
Among the many plants exclusive of Tropical Africa, we have to at least remember the genus Tabernaemontana, with large white flowers similar to those of giant Jasmines; the tree ferns of genus Cyathea; the well known Saintpaulias (African Violet) that have here their centre of diversity; the wild Bananas and the Giant Bean – an enormous liana belonging to genus Entada. Once reached the plateau on top of the small rocky bank, the visitors can admire the traditional ways of cultivating orchards and allotments in villages, and cross the reproduction of a small market where to observe typical tropical fruit and vegetables. In the future, the glasshouse will also host some animals: birds such as Livingston’s Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) and reptiles such as Derema’s chameleon (Trioceros deremensis), Pygmy chameleon (Rampholeon acuminatus) and others. The set-up of this glasshouse will also make visitors reflect on the themes of global thinking and sustainability, while illustrating the research projects and the importance of international cooperation for the protection of forests and the fight against poverty, inviting the visitor to also actively support these causes.
The Large Aquariums: Islands of Water, Laboratories of Evolution
Before entering the glasshouse, the visitor will find a series of large aquariums. The fishes that are hosted there are representative of the biodiversity typical of the great lakes and rivers of Tanzania (such as Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, Kilombero River) and mostly belong to the numerous family of the Ciclidae, which in the great water expanses of the Rift Valley in Eastern Africa have given life to one of the most spectacular phenomena of reproduction in conditions of relative isolation (an aquatic version of what – in the mainland and in the islands – happens with the Galapagos finches: a probably even more grandiose and quick phenomenon). The specimens being displayed in the aquariums were raised in captivity by professional growers and are therefore confident, calm and curious; they mostly reproduce with ease also in the limited space that is hosting them.
The "Big Void": in a 18-metre-high space, a rich variety of animal taxidermy is suspended amid projections and sounds.
The Tropical Mountain Green House: 600 square metres of forest enlivened by a crashing waterfall are home to small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and tropical butterflies.