Press Release No. 73 | December 17, 2010

“MenschMikrobe” Exhibition Continues its Tour

More than 36,000 people visited interactive infection research exhibition in 2010

The travelling exhibition organised by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), “Humans and Microbes – Robert Koch's Legacy and Modern Infection Research“, has already proved to be a visitor magnet during its very first year. In total, the interactive exhibition attracted more than 36,000 visitors at its three ports of call (Berlin, Bonn and Würzburg), including 400 school classes. During the 151 days on which the exhibition was open, it provided around 240 visitors per day with well-founded and readily accessible insights into microbe research, as well as into the historical and social aspects of infectious diseases. The exhibition marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Robert Koch, a Nobel laureate and one of bacteriology’s founding fathers, on 27 May 2010.

Exhibitions in Münster, Hamburg and Munich have already been organised for 2011, and additional tour locations are currently under consideration. The creation of an English-language version of the exhibition is also planned for 2011, with this version set to tour selected sites abroad from 2012.

The exhibition is aimed at a wide audience and features ten themed sections dealing with fundamental questions. These include the nature of microorganisms and the functions of the body’s flora, the ecological and social conditions which cause epidemics, the significance and limits of antibiotic therapy, and options for disease prevention.

The modern glass exhibition panels are complemented by interactive exhibits. These include a virtual pandemic simulation and a model hospital in which infection sources can be explored, as well as an oversized fabric bacterium used to explain the functioning of antibiotics. Audio features also explain the social and cultural effects of historical epidemics, such as the Plague in the Middle Ages or the 1892 cholera epidemic in Hamburg. Specially written texts for children and a child-friendly section explain the basic concepts to young visitors of primary school age and above. A visitor and teacher survey carried out at the exhibition’s first port of call, the Humboldt University in Berlin’s Thaer Hall, elicited an extremely positive response. 80 percent of the visitors surveyed rated the exhibition’s content as “rewarding” and considered its design “modern and vibrant”. Of the teachers who toured the exhibition with their classes, two-thirds considered the topics covered to be “very relevant” to their curriculum.

In Bonn, the exhibition was temporarily located at the Museum Koenig, where it received a visit from a high-ranking politician on 9 September. The German Federal Health Minister, Dr. Philipp Rösler, accompanied (among others) by the President of the Robert Koch Institute, Professor Reinhard Burger, spent more than an hour visiting the exhibition and showed particular interest in the section on everyday hygiene.

At the exhibition’s final port of call for 2010, the Rudolf Virchow Center/DFG Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine, the exhibit focused particularly on appealing to schools. Nearly 150 school classes and more than 5300 visitors attended the exhibition, which was held in the Research Center’s modern foyer.

Thus, one of the organisers’ particular concerns – that of informing and promoting early-career researchers – was furthered at all three locations in 2010.