Released October 3, 2017

The Power of Poison coming to the Indiana State Museum


Contact: Megan Simpson, 317.234.8146,  [email protected]

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Museum explores the historical fascination with toxins in The Power of Poison. The prestigious national traveling exhibition, on loan from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, opens at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

From the promise of immortality to tales of healing powers and mysterious deaths, poison is a popular theme in legends and fairy tales.  The Power of Poison examines the mystery and intrigue that surround nature’s most powerful defense mechanism and how it can be used for both good and evil. Look on as Shakespeare’s Macbeth witches brew up a poisonous potion to summon the future and find out what may be behind the Mad Hatter’s madness in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Did a snakebite really kill Cleopatra? And was it arsenic that ended the reign of Napoleon?  Visitors can check out the Detecting Poison Theater to explore a real-world poisoning case that highlights the dramatic advances in toxicology and forensics since the 19th century. An interactive game invites visitors to examine evidence and see if they have what it takes to solve the mysteries behind three puzzling poisoning cases. Next, step into a fairytale scene to get up close to a giant “enchanted” book to learn more about poisonous plants and how they were once used.

History also shows a long record of plant and animal toxins being used as medical treatments. Studying how poisons affect human cells helps scientists figure out how to protect, repair, and heal them. The Power of Poison looks at the ways toxins are being studied as potentially lifesaving treatments. Visitors can check out live golden poison dart frogs and learn the deadly secret they use to keep from becoming dinner. And learn how some of your favorite tastes and smells are derived from chemicals intended to fend off predators.

“The Power of Poison is a great fit for the museum because it blends both science and culture, exploring poison’s role in nature, myth and history as well as its impact on medicine,” said Damon Lowe, senior curator of science and technology.

There will be a special opening night reception that is open to the public on Friday, Oct. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. Attendees will be able to speak with curator Dr. Mark Siddall and meet Dr. Brent Furbee, medical director emeritus at Indiana Poison Center, who will present on famous Indiana murderers who used poison to commit their crimes. Tickets for members are $10 for adults, $5 for youth (ages 3-17). Tickets for non-members are $20 for adults, $15 for youth (ages 3-17). RSVP is required for the opening event by October 13 at or call 317.232.1637.

The Power of Poison is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York ( and is supported by Barnes & Thornburg LLP and Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers. The exhibition runs from October 21, 2017 to February 11, 2018.

For more information on the exhibition, please call 317.232.1637 or visit

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The Indiana State Museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It is Indiana’s museum for science, art and culture, offering a place where you can celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana’s story in the context of the broader world. Even the building is a showcase of the best Indiana has to offer in architecture, materials and sculpture. Easy and convenient parking is available in the attached underground garage.

American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to New York State’s official memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of environmental conservation. The Museum’s approximately 200 scientists draw on a world-class research collection of more than 34 million artifacts and specimens, some of which are billions of years old, and on one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, the Museum grants the Ph.D. degree in Comparative Biology and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such program at any museum in the United States. Annual physical attendance has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on six continents. The Museum’s website, digital videos, and apps for mobile devices bring its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more around the world. Visit for more information.

About Dr. Mark Siddall

Dr. Mark Siddall is Curator and Professor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he is the principal investigator of the Institute for Comparative Genomics and Professor of Invertebrate Zoology. His research focuses on the evolution of parasite diversity, from microbes and malaria to bed bugs, but especially his beloved leeches and their hemotoxic venoms. With over 150 publications including his popular book Poison: Sinister Species with Deadly Consequences and 30 years of fieldwork that spans all continents, Siddall has been central to leveraging genomic technologies for the study of biodiversity and its conservation. A defender of charismatic micro fauna, Siddall also is engaged with President Carter’s efforts to drive neglected diseases to extinction while still capturing knowledge about their life cycles, ecology and genomics. In addition to Power of Poison Siddall’s award-winning exhibitions include Life at the Limits, Countdown to Zero, Picturing Science, and the iconic Hall of Ocean Life.