News Release

New Light Through Old Windows

31st October 2007

Coiled Radula of Limpet

New Light Through Old Windows is an intriguing exhibition by University of Ulster microscopist Dr Steve Lowry which went on display at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Coleraine earlier this year and is currently in W5 in Belfast. 

An exhibition which includes images of a hen’s tongue, a cocoon of a Chinese silk worm, fatty acids extracted from human fat and suckers on the foreleg of a great diving beetle sounds a bit different - and it certainly is. 

“The exhibition has been created using microscope slides prepared by Victorian microscopists,” explains Steve. “These slides were often produced more for their artistic qualities than their scientific merit.  Using a polarising microscope or ‘polariscope’, even specimens that are colourless to the naked eye can produce visually stunning colours when magnified and viewed using polarised light. You can even alter the colours using light retarding filters.”

Adrian Hutton, W5’s Design and Exhibition Manager says that New Light Through Old Windows is generating a lot of interest among their visitors.“It’s a very colourful and interesting display. I’ve noticed a lot of parents reading the panels and then explaining to their children what the images are, which is always a good way to hold their attention.”

During Victorian times, viewing microscope slides with the help of ‘magic lanterns’ was a popular form of entertainment but unlike today, the Victorians did not have the capacity to reproduce the images as colour photographs.

A keen photographer with a special interest in photography through the microscope going back longer than he cares to remember, Dr Lowry was aware that many of the Victorian microscope slides in private ownership were starting to deteriorate so decided to try record as many as he could for posterity.

His photographic work has featured in many scientific journals – including New Scientist. He is a past overall winner of the prestigious international Nikon Small World Competition and this year was listed among the prize winners.

His award winning image of a rasping limpet’s tongue– ‘Coiled Radula of Limpet’ is included in the W5 exhibition and is one of the photographs selected for inclusion in the Nikon 2008 calendar. With entries received the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, this is a considerable international accolade.

New Light Through Old Windows also includes work based on the micrographs produced by Aoife Ludlow, Duncan Neil and Emma McClintock from Interface, the University’s research centre in Art and Design.

The exhibition will be on display in W5 until mid November.

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