© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WCBU is undergoing major tech upgrades which could cause interruptions in our streams. Thank you for your patience.

Get ready for a glow up: Peoria Riverfront Museum opens 'Creatures of Light' exhibition

Peoria Riverfront Museum
The "Creatures of Light" exhibition at the Peoria Riverfront Museum is opening to the public on Saturday.

It’s going to be a summer full of glowing light at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

The “Creatures of Light” exhibition is opening to the public on Saturday and is designed for children and adults alike to learn about organisms that create light and glow – known as bioluminescence.

Peoria Riverfront Museum chief curator Bill Conger said the exhibition could not have come at a more perfect time given that summer is right around the corner, and light up bugs will soon make nightly appearances in Central Illinois.

“We’re so excited to really illuminate our public, literally, to the world of bioluminescence,” Conger said. “This is essentially the world of animals that create so-called cold light. This is light that is created or imparted on various creatures who exist in the dark.”

The “Creatures of Light” exhibition will be on display during regular museum hours until Labor Day weekend, offering families the chance to learn about science and light-up creatures through the hands-on display.

“This is where you want to be this summer. This is an exhibition that you don’t see; you experience,” Conger said. “Youngsters that come in are going to move along with the exhibition, interact with the exhibition and learn at the same time.”

Conger continued, “We’re going to teach you about bioluminescence. We’re going to teach you about phosphorus and fluorescence, all these kinds of concepts of light that exist in land, in the air and in the water in this exhibition.”

“Creatures of Light” features interactive displays of fireflies, glowworms, glowing mushrooms, jellyfish, scorpions, a vampire squid and more.

The exhibit was designed and transported all the way from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. "Creatures of Light" is the third exhibition coming from New York, following the "Mythic Creatures" and the "T-rex: the ultimate predator" exhibits.

Exhibition Installation Manager David Levy traveled from New York to install "Creatures of Light."

Levy said exhibits like “Creatures of Light” take at least one year to design and build. Typically, the finished exhibitions stay in New York for roughly six months, and then they travel to other museums, like the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“[It’s] just a deeper knowledge and experience of the bioluminescence, which is sort of a crazy but an actual reality in nature. This exhibit takes you through both land and sea and air, [and] the creatures that have this property and what they use it for. It’s just a great, kind of weird sidelight on nature,” Levy said.

Levy said being a part of the exhibition installation process allows him to play a role in the educational impact that these exhibitions make on a given community, like Peoria.

David Levy is the exhibition installation manager for the American Museum of Natural History.
Jordan Mead
David Levy is the exhibition installation manager for the American Museum of Natural History.

“It’s my profession, but I come from theater, and when I started work at the museum, I was really delighted to be a part, finally, of an educational approach and effort. My parents were both teachers. Not that theater is not educational in its own way, but it was a great move to finally to be able to work for kids and for adults in an educational capacity,” Levy said.

John Morris is the president and CEO of the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Morris said the museum’s mission is to inspire the community, and he believe “Creatures of Light” does this by shining a light on unique organisms in nature.

“A lot of resources have gone in from time and money to bring a world class exhibition of this nature to our community, so don’t miss it. You don’t have to go to New York City where it was last year. You can see it right here in Peoria,” Morris said.

Morris said new exhibitions are rotated out all the time, but the “Creatures of Light” exhibition was special in his eyes because it breaks down the science behind creatures that glow, and it places museum guests in an environment that resembles the native environments of these organisms.

“It’s a dark gallery. The lights are flickering in the trees with the fireflies. There was an 8-foot firefly above. There is bioluminescence in the ocean. There’s’ the glowworms and the angular fish. It’s just a lot of fun,” Morris said.

On Friday, the Peoria Riverfront Museum held a conference to "light the way" for the new "Creatures of Light" exhibition. The museum will display "Creatures of Light" beginning Saturday and ending on Memoria Day weekend.
Jordan Mead
On Friday, the Peoria Riverfront Museum held a conference to "light the way" for the new "Creatures of Light" exhibition. The museum will display "Creatures of Light" beginning Saturday and ending on Memorial Day weekend.

Morris continued, “Not only do you have this incredible exhibition with hundreds of different bioluminescent explanations and models, but we also have added a luminescence lab, which gives the public an opportunity to engage in a way that they can’t in other places. So, it’s unique to Peoria as well. It’s not only what was in New York, but it’s with our own added benefit.”

Conger said the Peoria Riverfront Museum has a strong relationship with the American Museum of Natural History, and the goal is to display art, science, history and achievement in a way that engages everyone that steps foot into the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“Our partnership with them is really designed to bring the most cutting-edge exhibitions that teach and allow youngsters of all ages, from 0 to 100, to explore these various themes that we bring in. There is no museum out there that is doing it better than they are, so why not just bring them here,” Conger said.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.