Exploring Skin’s Fascinating Roles for Organisms

Skin is the largest organ within the human body. It acts as a barrier to the external environment, protecting our tissues, regulating temperature, maintaining water and detecting many important sensations, such as pain. All animals have a protective outer layer like our skin that serves many different functions and comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and hardness. 

The newest exhibit open at the Academy, Skin: Living Armor, Evolving Identity explores the fascinating roles that feathers, furs, scutes, scales, hides and hairs play for different organisms across the globe. With dozens of scientific specimens, hands-on features, informative videos, microscopes and a life-sized rhinoceros, the jammed-packed exhibit truly covers every aspect of this wildly delightful and somewhat misunderstood organ. 

The exhibit also investigates the layers of meaning associated with our own skin, including its care and keeping, throughout human history and society, as well as its influence on the shifting ideas of race and culture in our modern world. Visitors will also learn how evolution has shaped human skin’s sensitivity, shape, diversity and its relationship to mites — and how much scientists have yet to uncover about its underlying genetics and functions. 

“This visually bold exhibit truly delves into the remarkable biodiversity of the natural world,” said Scott Cooper, president and CEO of the Academy, “as well as the often deep and complex nature of humans and their relationships, in such a fresh, innovative and creative way.” 

Family visitors can meet the Academy’s slithery and scaly animal ambassadors during Awesome Armor: Reptile Encounters, a mediated experience featuring live snakes, turtles and lizards held on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. 

Aimed to inspire curiosity and spark dialogue, Skin will be onsite at the Academy from June 24, 2023 through January 21, 2024. Created by the California Academy of Sciences and modified for tour by the Science Museum of Minnesota, this multi-sensory exhibition will be offered in both English and Spanish and has been generously supported by Susan and Nicholas Pritzker and Family. 


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