Exhibition

X-Ray Vision

Fish Inside Out

Radiograph of Lookdown fish by Sandra J. Raredon, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Photo: radiograph of Lookdown fish by Sandra J. Raredon, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

  • About

    About

    Closes Sunday 22 May 2016

    Striking X-rays of fish will dazzle you at this Smithsonian Travelling Exhibition here at the Maritime Museum.

    Featuring 40 black-and-white digital prints arranged in evolutionary sequence, these pictures will take you on a tour through the long stream of fish evolution.

    Although the images were made for research purposes, these strikingly elegant prints demonstrate the natural union of science and art and are a visual retelling of the evolution of fish.

    The X-rays have allowed Smithsonian and other scientists to study the skeleton of a fish without altering the sampling making it easier for scientists to build a comprehensive picture of fish diversity.

    Curators of the exhibition, Lynne Parenti and Sandra Raredon, have worked in the Division of Fishes at the National Museum of Natural History collecting thousands of X-rays of fish specimens to help ichthyologists understand and document the diversity of fishes.

    Fish are vertebrates – animals with backbones – and have bodies supported by a bony skeleton. Variations in the skeleton, such as the number of vertebrae or the position of fins, are documented with X-rays. The Smithsonian’s National Collection of these Fish X-rays represent more than 70 percent of the world’s fish specimen and is the largest and most diverse collection of its kind in the world.

    A different vision exhibition

    The museum advises that this exhibition may contain the names of, and artwork by, deceased Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

    This exhibition in our USA Gallery features contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander x-ray-style artworks and three-dimensional fish-related objects from the collection.

    X-rays have been used in medical imaging for just on 120 years. For thousands of years Aboriginal artists from Arnhem Land (the north-east corner of the Northern Territory) have made x-ray rock and bark paintings to represent sacred ancestral and supernatural beings as well as fish and animals.

    The artworks in A Different Vision reveal 40,000 years of unbroken knowledge and cultural connection to fish and the sea. Among the works are a model canoe from Arnhem Land which has been painted with x-ray designs of fish, Two Fresh Water Fish - a bark painting by Dick Nguleingulei Murramurra and Fish a black and white linocut artwork of two large fish and stingrays by Pooaraar (Bevan Haywood).

    Learn More Online

    Ticket Information

    Open daily, 9.30am–5pm, until 22 May 2016

    FREE entry


    See our Admissions page for full price information and to book your tickets. Our Plan Your Visit page has everything you need to know about a trip to the museum.


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    Buy the book

    Ichthyo - The Architecture of Fish

    This stunning compendium of images are as mesmerizingly beautiful as they are amazingly detailed, revealing the hidden wonders of the creatures of the deep. Available from our online store and in our gift shop.

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  • Photo Gallery

    Photo Gallery

    Dhiho’s Seahorse. Radiograph and fish photograph by Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Fish, Bevan Haywood / Licensed by Viscopy, 2015.Long-spine Porcupine Fish. Radiograph and fish photograph by Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Lookdown fish. Radiograph and fish photograph by Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Viper Moray. Courtesy: radiograph and fish photograph by Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Wedge-tail Triggerfish. Rradiograph and fish photograph by Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.