The Power of Poison, currently at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, explores the complex and surprising world of poison by immersing visitors in a fabulous trip through rainforests, mythical lands, back in time, and then returns them to the present era.
The Power of Poison begins with the exploration of poison in nature. You feel as if you have truly been transported to the Choco Forest in South American as you enter this exhibit. The scenery is a work of art.
In this beautiful exhibit, you will learn about how animals use poison both for protection and to hunt their next meal. You will also discover some interesting ways in which animal create toxins in the natural world.
You will discover how the toxin produced by some animals helps surrounding vegetation survive, and how some plants use their own toxins for survival. There are numerous examples of how plants and animals benefit one another through their use of poisons and how some animals have learned to overcome the power of poisons through various adaptations such as eating clay which binds the plant tannins, a type of toxin, making the plants easier to digest.
Next visitors enter into the world of myths and legends. This darker section of the exhibit may be a bit scary for younger children as the three witches from Macbeth are the centerpiece of this exhibit. Snow White also lies sleeping in her crystal casket in the dark woods. However, older children and adults will enjoy learning about how poison was used in literature around the world. We skipped through this section much more quickly than I would have liked due to the three life-sized witches brewing a potion in their cauldron.
One of the most memorable scenes in Alice in Wonderland is when Alice encounters the Mad Hatter and attends his spirited unbirthday party. Learn the science behind what tragically made many hatters appear mad in the 1800s and led to this colorful character in the book.
Visitors also learn about the role of poison in history. This beautiful display depicts Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China. Learn how his quest for immortality ultimately prematurely ended his reign.
The Enchanted Book was definitely the highlight of the exhibit for my five-year-old. This book is straight from the pages of Harry Potter. As you turn each page, writing magically appears revealing the mysteries of poison plants. Readers can uncover more about each plant species by touching the icons in the book. You can view the web version of the Enchanted Book here, but the web experience does not come close to interacting with this magical book in person.
Guests can then test their poison knowledge and work as detectives and to rescue a family pet and ship’s crew from unintentional poisoning. I was worried that my animal loving daughters might be affected by a beloved pet accidentally getting sick from poison, but the emphasis of the interactive exhibits was on curing and none of the kids I observed seemed bothered by it. My daughters were extremely engaged with this part of this exhibit which is the perfect transition into the final part which is how poison can be used for cures.
I would guess that most families of younger children can expect to spend about an hour in the Power of Poison. Families of older children, especially those who love science, could easily spend 2 hours exploring the exhibit. I plan on returning and exploring the exhibit further while the girls are in school one day, as some of the parts I found intriguing they did not find as interesting and we glanced over them.
The Power of Poison is included with admission to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History which is $14 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-18. Children ages 2 year and under are free as are museum members. Metered parking can be found on Wade Oval. The museum also had a paid lot which is $8 for the first 2-1/2 hours for non-members and $5 for members. You can explore the Power of Poison at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History through July 24, 2016.