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Perspectives MetKids Microscope

Making Waves: What Happens When We Zoom in on Art?

Aug 26, 2021 5 MINUTES

Waves: they’re not just in the ocean. We need waves of light to look at art at The Met. But what if we want to take a closer look? Then, we use an electron microscope, a cool tool that uses energy waves to zoom in on art like never before.

#MetKids Microscope is a show about the science behind the art (and the art behind the science!) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Learn true stories about real discoveries from scientists at the Museum, and do some experiments on your own!

Do Not Not Try This at Home: Create Your Own Microscope

Difficulty Level: 3/5


Wide-mouthed clear jar with a plastic lid
Small piece of clear plastic
A piece of thread


1. Ask an adult for help! Poke a small hole in the middle of the lid.
2. On the inside of the lid, tape the piece of plastic over the hole. Be sure the tape does not cover the hole by taping the sides of the plastic only.
3. Cut a cardboard square that is small enough to fit in the mouth of the jar and cover it in foil.
4. Use another piece of cardboard to prop up the foil-covered square piece at a 45º angle. Turn the jar upside-down and place it on top of the cardboard covered in foil.
5. Place your piece of thread on the bottom of the upside-down jar. Grab the lid and place one drop of water directly on top of the pinhole on the plastic. Then place the lid on the bottom of jar.

Close one eye and view the thread through the water droplet.

If you have trouble viewing the thread through the hole, move the lid around to focus!

Congratulations! You just made a microscope!

What do you notice about the thread?

What can you see with your microscope?

Head of Digital Content: Sofie Andersen
Executive Producer: Sarah Wambold
Director/Writer/Producer: Benjamin Korman
Animation Direction: Lisa LaBracio
Art Direction: Lisa LaBracio
Design + Illustration: Tara Sunil Thomas
Animation: Sara Zarul Azham, Lisa LaBracio
Effects Animation: Tom Bayne
Experiment Photography: Mia Nacamulli
Textile Microphotography: Cristina Balloffet Carr, Department of Textile Conservation
Production Coordinators: Lela Jenkins, Emma Masdeu-Perez
Narrator: Corin Wells, Federico Caró
Education Consultants: Emily Blumenthal, Darcy-Tell Morales, Julie Marie Seibert
Episode Consultants: Federico Caró, Cristina Balloffet Carr, Marco Leona
Original Music: Austin Fisher
Sound Mix: Dave Raymond
Additional Photography: Peter Berson
Special Thanks: Téo Nacamulli Tabet

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), Edo period (1615-1868), ca. 1830–32. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 10 1/8 x 14 7/8 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847)

Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95). Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Ebizō (Ichikawa Danjūrō V) in the play The Colored Reins of a Loving Wife (Koi nyōbō somewake tazuna), Edo period (1615-1868), 5th month, 1794. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper with mica ground, 14 1/2 x 9 3/5 in. (36.8 x 24.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Rogers Fund, 1949 (JP3114)

Saint Martin Offering the Wine Cup to the Priest, 1430–35. Flemish. Linen plain weave underlaid with linen plain weave and embroidered silk and gilt-metal-strip-wrapped silk in single satin, split, and stem stitches, laid work, and couching, including or nué, d. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.1907)

Textile microphotography © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Photography by Cristina Balloffet Carr

Images © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© 2021 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

#MetKids is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies

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