Thursday, August 25, 2016

Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders


I passed by the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders every day on my way to Artisan, my favorite cafe in Chiang Mai. The nondescript building makes it easy to miss, and I would have overlooked it were it not for the mosquito silhouettes in the iron fence or the name etched into the concrete nearby. 







The entrance on the ground floor recedes into darkness. Is this a real place? Is it open? All questions that go through your mind when you approach the doors. The answer to both is, of course, yes, and upon opening the doors you are greeted kindly by the welcoming staff. 


I'm not sure what I was expecting to see. A lot of dead bugs, perhaps. And that expectation was surely met. I think I expected the museum to be an ode to scientific research around insects. Indeed its founder is one of the leading experts on mosquitos in the world. I thought I would learn a lot about malaria and mosquito-born diseases, as the installation on the first floor promises. But there were curious other things to observe....



WTF is happening here? Mermaid elephant with boobs?



Oh, ok, dead bugs. That's more like it. 


Ew gross, nevermind







a big hoarder's dream




What I did not expect was the ode to mother earth, the crystals, the religious overtones, the love of life and nature, and perhaps most surprising: the family portraits. 


The museum is the product of the lifelong work of Dr. Rampa Rattanarithukul. She is not only a world renowned expert on mosquitoes, but also a loving fan and admirer of them. Throughout the museum is a series of commissioned paints of landscapes, woman in tantric poses, and portraits of herself and her family. But each painting features another companion, that of the beloved mosquito. 


Can you spot the mosquito in each painting?



mosquito on the flower


mosquito in the trees





mosquito on her leg


mosquito on the modesty leaf


mosquito on the holy book


mosquito on the water



mosquito riding a horse


mosquito family


mosquito companion


meditative mosquito



mosquito gaze


Dr. Rattanarithukul's love for mosquitos and all life can also be seen in the literature in the museum. A printed note hangs on the wall next to dead bugs in glass displays:





Notice how Nature and Insect are respectfully capitalized. Who is this sign intended for? Is it supposed to make the tourists feel better about all the death they are looking at? But I suspect it may be more to ease the conscience of the researcher, who would not want the bugs' deaths to be in vain. 





Perhaps the greatest lesson is that all life is sacred at the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. Thank you Dr. Rattanarithukul, for your work and for this valuable lesson. 




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