Rijksmuseum exhibit explores people’s relationship to ‘crawly creatures’

The walls of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum are swarming with 700 giant ants. The larger than life creatures are the lead up to a new exhibit, which will investigate how people have perceived insects and other creatures throughout time, according to the museum.

The exhibit, called “Clara and Crawly Creatures,” will display 200 objects and pieces of artwork that capture how scientists and artists have expressed their interests in animals over time. The animals in question range from spiders to toads to rhinoceroses. Through them, the museum wants to showcase how “with time, our understanding and view of these animals have completely changed.”

Scientific advances in the 16th and 17th centuries changed the reputation of insects and other crawling creatures, which were once thought of as “symbols of death and decay,” according to the museum. The exhibit will highlight how the newfound appreciation of insects created a whole new art form.

Clara the rhinoceros will also play a starring role in the new exhibit. Dutch sea captain Douwe Mout was the first to bring a rhinoceros named Clara to Europe in 1741, where she was an object of fascination for Europeans who thought of rhinos as near-mythical creatures. To illustrate the impact Clara made, the museum will display a print of a rhinoceros from 1515 alongside a portrait of Clara herself from 1749.

The exhibit begins on Sept. 30 and will run through Jan. 15, 2023. The Rijksmuseum will also offer workshops and a guided audio tour for visitors.

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