Preview | Tiny humans, big bugs stun at “The BUGS Exhibit”

Jolencia Jones, Contributing Writer

As patrons sauntered into The University of Alabama’s Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum, many were surprised to see close-up shots of insect antennae plastered on the walls in vibrant colors. The museum’s newest exhibit, “The BUGS Exhibit,” highlights insects through in-depth photographs. 

What: A creative photography project that showcases The University of Alabama’s insect collection. 

Who: The exhibit was created by The University of Alabama’s Entomology Collection, Bama Bug Fest and UA Blount Scholars Program students. The event is free and open to the public. 

When: From 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until July 31. 

Where: Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum

The goal of the exhibit is to showcase bugs that can be found around Tuscaloosa and Northport through a microscopic perspective. 

Using specimens from the University’s Entomology Collection, students in the UA Blount Scholars Program brought the photographs to life.

The students selected their insects and took photos using the stacking method, which typically requires placing between 50 and 100 photos on top of each other to create a detailed microscopic portrait. 

The photographs were shot right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, so the students were left with limited time to create their masterpieces. Despite this, the exhibit was brought to life more than a year later. 

“This exhibit is a different way of presenting the same kinds of material that we do every year but in different styles, different formats. It started off as a moth fest, but it got so popular that people wanted to see more than moths,” said James Scott, the museum’s education assistant.

The tiger beetle is one of Scott’s favorite exhibits. 

“I like the perspective of [the photos], but when we enhanced it and made it wall size, it opens up the ability to interact with it without it being overwhelming,” Scott said. “Parents come in with their children and have them stand like they are being attacked by the bugs to take pictures. It gives the opportunity for interaction rather than it just being a piece of art.” 

Katherine Edge, the museum’s director, said it challenges the typical perspective of big humans next to tiny bugs. The tallest exhibit stands at 7 feet tall.

For many, the beauty of insects is lost in their small size. Each photograph at the exhibit showcases a normal photo of the bug along with a close-up of the insect’s vibrant colors and patterns, allowing visitors to compare the two perspectives.

To learn more about the Bama Bug Fest and the different insects that call Alabama home, check out the Bama Bug Fest’s website.