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Spiders at the ROM

Fear and fascination.

How do you milk a tarantula? Visitors of Spiders: Fear and Fascination are about to find out. Live milking of spider venom is one of the highlights of the skin-crawling exhibition that opens at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 16 for a six-month run concluding in January.

From behind the glass walls of a makeshift laboratory (don’t worry), trained ROM technicians, known as “Spider Wranglers,” will demonstrate the extreme care that goes into extracting venom from a spider’s fangs for use in pesticides, pain relief medicines, and cancer treatments. The point is to show that arachnids, while creepy, are extremely useful, as well as versatile. Not only do spiders safeguard agriculture and horticulture by consuming the pests that would destroy crops and bother livestock, they provide the means for new scientific discoveries meant for the better of humanity.

Originating at Sydney’s Australian Museum in 2016, the multifaceted exhibition showcases over 400 live and preserved spider specimens in addition to interactive games and video experiences enhancing an experience of one of the world’s most feared, if not misunderstood, invertebrates. New to the Toronto presentation, and going a long way in helping make spiders seem more friend than foe (at least to human observers), is an incredibly rare garment made from the gold silk of the orbweaver spider. The cloak took three years—and 1.2 million individual Madagascar golden orbweaver spiders captured by hand and then returned to the forest—to make. The first and last time it was on display was at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2012. Now, the natural beauty is at the ROM, catching people in a web of art and intrigue.

Spiders: Fear and Fascination runs June 16, 2018 to January 6, 2019 at the ROM.


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