Special Exhibition 2014

"Foraminifera: small master builders in the ocean"

19th September - 30th November 2014

They strongly influence the global climate, can help us find petroleum, can construct minerals, and make up entire sections of mountains – and they also appear in Egyptian pyramids! But they are tiny. Sometimes too small to be recognised with the naked eye, their total beauty unfolds only under a microscope: foraminifers. Most of us have barely heard of them, if at all, but without them many aspects of our planet couldn't function. 

Their beauty is puzzling, their shapes near-perfect and ideal, and the diversity of their appearance almost unlimited: small, twisted, tubular, snail-shaped, spherical, radial, or star-like. Their delicate appearance is fascinating, and they themselves are masterpieces of nature. Their shapes could inspire utopian architecture or spaceships. These fascinating organisms appear mainly in the sea, and are the main producers of limestone on our planet; hence the name "little builders of the ocean".

The new special exhibition of the terra mineralia, scientifically partnered by the department of micropaleontology at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, will inspire visitors of all ages (but especially children) in the areas of nature and science. It attempts to show that even things that normally go unnoticed can play a great role in our everyday lives. Without them the search for petroleum would be much harder and (more importantly) more expensive, the carbon cycle would break down, and the Earth would have fewer mountains. 

The new exhibition is interactively laid out: even small visitors are invited to explore the foraminifers and their environment. Where are they found? How do they look? How long have they existed? What exactly do they do? Can you find and collect them yourself? Different microscope stations and hands-on areas teach visitors about the single-celled organisms and bring them closer to the fascinating world of the tiny creatures. An aquarium, a model of a giant foraminifer, a board game, core samples and drill bits, a preparation station, 3D images, and sand samples from around the world allow us to literally dive into the experience-rich world of the foraminifer.

Young geology enthusiasts participated in making the exhibition and contributed some of its key pieces. The project is called "MuseobilBOXEN" (do-it-yourself museum). Its content was supervised by the Federal Association of Museum Pedagogy, and it was financially supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The children have presented a foraminifer in its habitat in each of the museum's display cases.

Visitors unlock the world of the foraminifer using a fascinating scientific brochure written for non-scientists. Promoters and supporters of the exhibition include: The department of micropaleontology at Freiburg University (led by Dr Olaf Elicki), the Association of Friends and Promoters of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, and the Projekt Foraminifera.eu.

The exhibition is open from Mon-Fri 10 am-5 pm, and until 6:00 pm on weekends and holidays. The entrance price is 3.50 EUR for adults, 2.50 EUR for children, and 2.00 EUR for students and student groups.

30th June 2014

Children host a special foraminifera exhibition at terra mineralia

Primary school children from the Georgius Agricola School in Freiberg, which enjoys special attention from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, is co-hosting the new special exhibition at terra mineralia. Today, (30 June), the approximately 15 children will give their self-made “exhibits” a final polish. 

The theme of the special exhibition, which opens in September, revolves around foraminifera – tiny living organisms that mainly live in water. Their unique appearances are very impressive – beautiful spiral tubes or snail-shaped, ball-shaped, radiating and star-shaped forms. However, foraminifera are neither plants nor animals, and neither are they fungi. Since January 2014, the pupils have been studying these fascinating single-celled creatures and have produced bottle and soccer-ball-sized sculptures of the microscopic forams. The children have placed each foram in an attractively decorated box – a museobilbox. 

Besides working on these creations, the pupils also learned a lot about useful forams: Where do they live? What is their environment like? Why are they so useful for our climate and for the oceans they live in? This project was supported by the programme “Museobilbox – Culture promotes Strength!” of the “Bundesverband Museumspädagogik e.V.” (Federal Association of Museum Education). The aim of the programme is to make children familiar with working in museums. 

Foraminifera form the basis for the formation of rock and mineralisation. Via the process of biomineralisation, they secrete minerals, for example calcite. The special exhibition also includes a man-sized, walk-in model of a foram and a preparation station, pieces of rock and examples of minerals and large screens that show images and video footage of the smallest organisms, all of which allow visitors to immerse themselves in the underwater world – the environment of the forams. 

Further information is available at: www.terra-mineralia.de