Colour and Vision
15 July – 6 November 2016
Bringing together a vivid array of objects, the show explores the entwined histories of colour and vision.
Only six branches of the tree of life contain species with eyes that form images. This, according to the museum's researchers – coupled with the ability to see rays of light as colour – is a profound evolutionary advantage.
In nature colour can be used as a warning, a disguise, for camouflage, deception and even as an invitation. Among the more than 350 artefacts on display are parakeet feathers, metallic beetles and iridescent butterflies.
The exhibition also highlights the differences in how animals and humans see and perceive colour, drawing on 200 dissected specimens from the National Eye Collection, which has been held at the museum since the closure of the London Ophthalmic Hospital in 1988.
A new light installation by British artist Liz West was inspired by Newton's colour spectrum and blue morpho butterflies in the museum's collection.