The Legacy of a Lifetime of Collecting:
The Carl & Marian Rettenmeyer Story

A Traveling Interactive Natural History Exhibit

Intro to the Interactive Exhibit

About the Exhibit

“The Legacy of a Lifetime of Collecting: The Carl & Marian Rettenmeyer Story” is an interactive exhibit inspired by a remarkable natural history collection of army ants and their hundreds of closely associated organisms, or "guests." The collection was assembled over the course of 50 years of fieldwork in South and Central America by the late Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer.

Visitors to the exhibit journey from collecting army ants in the jungle to preserving specimens in the Biodiversity Research Collection facility. Through experiences designed for touch-interactive screens, visitors can observe army ant swarm raids in the jungle, notate field card observations, examine slides in the collection with a digital microscope, study specimens in Cornell drawers, and explore the life-work of Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer through an interactive timeline.

The exhibit was created through a close collaboration between the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and the University of Connecticut’s Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Digital Media & Design, which came together as one of a number of multi-disciplinary endeavors across our campus, now known as “AntU”. The exhibit was designed to travel to multiple locations to share the wonders of the complex biological system of army ants and their guests with as broad a spectrum of audiences as possible.

The exhibit was created with the support of the National Science Foundation Collections in Support of Biological Research Program and the University of Connecticut Provost’s Office Academic Plan Competition.


Creative Team

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Biodiversity Research Collections

Jane O’Donnell
Geert Goemans
Elizabeth Barbeau
Janine Caira
Bernard Goffinet

Connecticut State
Museum of Natural History
Collin Harty
Leanne Kennedy Harty
Janine Caira

Department of Digital Media & Design
AntU Traveling Exhibit Course

Anna Lindemann
Michael Toomey 
Ali Betlej
Thomas Carter
Nini Constable
Rae Enzie
Corlis Fraga
Allie Marsh
Jacob Rodier
Ali Sailer
Sarah Shattuck
Helena Sirken

Exhibit Digital Media Art Direction
Anna Lindemann

Exhibit Fabrication
Collin Harty

Exhibit Coding
Michael Toomey

Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Illustrations
Helena Sirken

Exhibit Photography
Paul Bertner
Elizabeth Barbeau
Charlene Fuller

Christian Partenio
Tyler Shuster
Rebecca Rosen
Anna Lindemann

Images from the Exhibit

SELECT Guest Book Comments from Visitors to the Exhibit

I greatly enjoyed the interactive nature of the exhibit and how it invites the visitor to almost journey along with Carl and Marian and be transported.
The animated ants are so cool! I really loved seeing the journey from the field to the lab.
Thank you for taking me on this magical educational journey. I am blessed.
I enjoyed how interactive this exhibit was, as well as how there were so many personal touches regarding Carl and Marian’s lives!
I enjoyed this exhibit so much, especially the microscope activity! So interesting
I was very surprised about how much actually goes on in an ant colony! This exhibit was very interesting and informative :)
This exhibit was very fascinating! The interactive parts really helped me engage with the information and Carl’s and Marian’s story!
This exhibit was super interesting and really well put together! 10/10
Incredible exhibit that contained informative interactive activities. Very fascinating research.
This is such an amazing and informational exhibit! It is well designed and the interactive portions are so much fun!
I had no idea that so many other organisms lived among ants. Thanks for teaching me something new.
I loved that this told the story of the Rettenmeyers as well as the organisms!
I was amazed by the total number of specimens studied! Cool examples of symbiotic relationships!
I really enjoyed playing the interactive games because it was a fun way to learn about ant colonies
It was interesting to learn the life story of the two researchers and their impact on science today.
How cool! It’s very interesting seeing the magnitude of this discovery, it totally justifies a lifetime of work, curiosity, and awe.

Exhibit Timeline

Future The interactive exhibit will travel to University of Connecticut regional campuses for exhibition, and will be available for display at additional locations.

Ongoing The interactive exhibit is on display in the Stevens Gallery of the Homer Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.

Fall 2018 “The Legacy of a Lifetime of Collecting: The Carl & Marian Rettenmeyer Story” exhibit opens to the public at the University of Connecticut Storrs campus

Spring 2018 Ten students enroll in a special topics “AntU Traveling Exhibit Design” course within the Digital Media & Design Department at University of Connecticut designed by Anna Lindemann, and co-taught by Anna Lindemann and Michael Toomey, where they participate in developing designs, illustrations, and animations for the interactive exhibit.

Spring 2017 The AntU initiative receives $250,000 in funding from the University of Connecticut Office of the Provost to support 16 endeavors integrating science, fine arts, and humanities, including the development of a traveling exhibit about the Carl W. and Marian E. Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection.

Spring 2016 The National Science Foundation awards a $500,000 grant to the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut to preserve and curate the specimens, and create a publicly available online database for the Collection.

2015 The Carl W. and Marian E. Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection is donated to the Universtiy of Connecticut. The collection, amassed during more than 50 years of fieldwork in Central and South America, consists of over 2 million specimens of army ants and their guests, over 7,000 microscope slides, over 6,500 photographic slides, and 7,000 field cards.

To find out more about the exhibit, or if you’re interested in hosting the exhibit, contact