The Micrarium which means a 'place for small things' was the dream of the late Dr Stephen Carter who, prior to taking early retirement, was a senior research scientist with ICI Pharmaceuticals.

He then devoted his efforts towards making the Micrarium a reality, enlisting the help of his wife, Janet, and their three daughters Steph, Angie and Nicki.

For the Micrarium to be a success the microscopes had to be robust, 'public proof', user friendly, entertaining and informative. With his experience in engineering and design it seemed natural for Stephen to equip a workshop and produce the equipment in-house, so together they manufactured the 44 special microscopes that formed the heart of the exhibition.

The majority of the microscopes were positioned above the visitor and projected an image onto a waist level screen. You could select from 8 specimens, focus, change magnification and move the specimen around using a joystick control, essential when viewing live animals.

Other microscopes were designed to be viewed directly through a large eyepiece, mainly displaying solid specimens. A live Ants nest was one of the stunning displays.

The specimens were also vitally important and a lot of effort was put into obtaining, selecting and preparing some 300+ specimens, all of which had accompanying information.

Several Microscopists from various fields of expertise supplied materials too, many being members of microscopical societies such as the Quekett and the Royal Microscopical Society.

In 1981 the doors opened to the world's first Micrarium - an exhibition display devoted entirely to the natural world under the microscope.

The Buxton Micrarium immediately obtained an enthusiastic following. It became a regular attraction for school parties, was featured on television several times and in 1985 was judged Museum of the Year.

Sadly, Dr Carter died suddenly in 1987 and whilst part of his family carried on running the exhibition, in 1995 closure became inevitable when the lease on the premises expired and no suitable home could be found.

In the 14 years it was open in excess of 250,000 people visited Buxton Micrarium.

The Royal Microscopical Society considered the Micrarium too important an attraction to be allowed to disappear and provided funds for its careful dismantling. Plans were made to re-house the Micrarium elsewhere, but despite considerable efforts by several dedicated enthusiasts, the Micrarium remains in storage.

Prior to the Micrarium's closure a separate company, Micrarium Enterprises, was formed to satisfy the growing demand for remote controlled interactive microscopes and other magnifying devices.

So even though the Micrarium has long since gone, at least in part, through Micrarium Enterprises, many more people carry on enjoying looking at the microscopical world which is what Stephen Carter set out to do all those years ago.
Back to History
The principle of the Projection Microscope
Stephen showing a visitor the mouthparts of a ladybird