Exhibition “Fathers and Sons”

The exhibition “Fathers and Sons” opens on 18 October at the Estonian Museum of Natural History. It focuses on paternal care and the lack of it in nature as well as explains the animal and plant kingdoms’ complicated developmental biology. The exhibition exploring the connection between fathers and their offspring is the Museum of Natural History’s gift to the Estonian Republic to celebrate its Centenary.

The exhibition “Fathers and Sons” focuses on fathers in the animal and plant kingdom, their connection with their offspring, the endurance of generations and the future of species. There has been little interest in paternal care in nature and the importance of fathers has been rather underestimated, however it is crucial for the preservation of species.

The exhibition presents colourful examples of Estonian species that prove the existence of paternal care among many animal groups. There are also vivid examples of males who don’t engage in paternal care. Find out in the exhibition hall what kind of fathers are wolves, bears or sticklebacks—do they have are role in raising their offspring and what is it? Visitors can compare themselves to the humorous animal father archetypes created by the playwright Urmas Lennuk—are you an avid nest builder and a completely loyal and caring father like a beaver or rather the opposite? 

In addition to the animal kingdom the exhibition also covers paternity in the plant kingdom. When we speak of fathers and their offspring, the plant kingdom is generally overlooked. However, in reality, both animals and plants have mothers and fathers and they reproduce with gametes. For most flowering plants, the same plant is both a mother and a father, but some plants don’t have a father at all.


Photos: Lennart Lennuk

The exhibition “Fathers and Sons” is divided into several big topics and offers discoveries to visitors of all ages. In addition to fathers’ roles in raising their offspring, the exhibition clearly and comprehensibly explains complicated topics such as hermaphroditism, sex change and parthenogenesis. The cellular level will also be explored—with replicas and games the world otherwise hidden to the naked eye will be revealed to better understand fertilization and heredity.

As this is a classic museum of natural history exhibition, the exhibition hall features taxidermy, replicas and herbarium specimens, but there are also other media used. Visitors can listen to the sounds of baby animals which people are not able to hear in normal conditions, watch videos and animations, test their knowledge and skills with interactive exhibits. Those who are brave can climb into the wolf cave, while visitors who want to put their skills to the test can steer a dust particle on its way to the right destination.

Young exhibition visitors can find the right nests for different bird species, try building a nest on their own or be the cuckoo bird’s “stepfather”. Adults can learn about the expression of paternally inherited traits upon the example of pigeon feather colours; guess the sex of birds, mammals, insects and plants and put the different stages of meiosis in the correct sequence. 


Photo: Lennart Lennuk

It is also possible to order exhibition tours and there are thematic educational programs for kindergartens and schools. Various family mornings, lectures and other interesting events are organised during the opening hours of the exhibition as well.

The exhibition is open in the Estonian Museum of Natural History until 31 December 2019.

Curators: Lennart Lennuk, Marja-Liisa Kämärä, Loore Ehrlich
Team: Museum of Natural History family
Design: Creative Agency PULT / Exporabbit
The producer and installer of the exhibition: Linex OÜ
Light solution: Light On OÜ
Texts: Tuul Sepp, Lennart Lennuk, Marja-Liisa Kämärä, Kersti Veskimets, Jana-Maria Habicht, Loore Ehrlich, Sander Olo
Translations: Andrei Miljutin, Marina Maran, Marina Raudar
Editing: Külli Kolde (Ad Altum OÜ)
Animations and screen games: Bop Animation OÜ, Kersti Veskimets
Replicas and wall game: Tõnu Kalpus (Huntman OÜ)
Photographs of dust particles: PalDat – a palynological database (2000 onwards, www.paldat.org)
Acknowledgements: Iulian Ibanescu, Jiří Šichtař, Michael Bright Yakass, Raido Kont 

This exhibition is supported by the Environmental Investment Centre.