Colour and Vision

Things to do, Exhibitions
Recommended
5 out of 5 stars
Colour and Vision

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

If ever a show was made for Instagram, this is it. The Natural History Museum’s exploration of colour, vision and their roles in the natural world is chock full of beauty. Stuffed hummingbirds glimmer like opals. A case holds dozens of cinnabar moths, scarlet wings spread wide. Even the jars of bisected animal eyes have a gruesome aesthetic appeal.

It’s only right that an exhibition about sight should look spectacular. Plenty of thought has clearly gone into the show’s design. Among the first objects are trace fossils left by blind, burrowing creatures in the millennia before the evolution of the eye. They’re spotlit in a black-painted room, which opens to lighter, brighter spaces as we learn how eyesight and, eventually, colour vision developed. Later rooms are a visual feast, their walls decked with eye-popping shades and engaging line drawings of animals.

For all its style, though, this is also a show of substance. It paints evolution as a kind of arms race. As the hunters developed sight, the hunted developed defence mechanisms such as camouflage and hues that warned of toxicity. As vision evolved, the world literally grew more colourful in response.

Objects and information are the focus, rather than fancy interactives, but one touch screen offers the chance to experience what the world looks like to a snail (black, white and blurry), a dragonfly (psychedelic) and a bulldog (as it does to humans, but less colourful). It becomes clear that the shades that seem to make up our world are nothing more than a human construct; unknowable to other species.

In encouraging visitors to see through other eyes, ‘Colour and Vision’ reveals the world in all its many-hued magnificence.

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