Two fish side by side, one is a radiograph of a fish skeleton and the other is a brightly colored and stained fish

Look Within the World of Fish

Two new exhibitions dive deeper into the intricate beauty of fishes

Look within the world that lies below the surface, this fall at the Bell Museum. In a new exhibition, X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out, courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, radiographs illuminate the complex bone structures of fish and other aquatic vertebrates in dramatic detail. In a second show this fall, Cleared, art meets science to depict dyed fish specimens in vibrant colors. Both shows will feature specimens from the Bell’s fish collection, allowing you to explore the depths of Minnesota’s great lakes, rivers, and beyond. Then, dive deeper into the world of fishes with new Learning Landscape activities, Spotlight Science events, and the return of Spooky Science.

On view until January 2

X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out

A world lies below the surface of the water, one filled with life and complex beauty. Bodies of water brim with ecosystems of fish, stingrays, eels, seahorses, and other aquatic life. Yet what lies beyond the surface of these creatures’ scaly exteriors? What structures support their bodies? 

In a new exhibition, the bone structures of vertebrate aquatic life are revealed in intricate detail.

The Bell Museum presents X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out, an exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. View dramatic prints of radiographs that expose the interior structures of fish in a level of detail reminiscent of fine engraving. Study fish skeletons, fin spines, and teeth to see how scientists examine fish anatomy. Discover the process of scientific digital image preparation and explore the critical role it plays in understanding the long-term effects of climate change.  

This exhibition captures the significance of the Smithsonian’s National Collection of Fishes—the largest and most diverse collection of its kind, with an estimated four million individual fish specimens representing more than 70 percent of the world’s fish species, encompassing males, females, juveniles, larvae, and even eggs. 

The Bell Museum also maintains a fish collection, a nationally important collection with an emphasis on Minnesota. Museum specimens serve as a historical record of fish biodiversity and distribution and are working reference libraries for scientists around the world. Specimens from the Bell’s collection will be brought to the surface for this exhibition, allowing you to explore the depths of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and beyond.

The Bell Museum is pleased to announce that it has been designated a Smithsonian Affiliate. Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The Bell Museum joins a network of more than 200 organizations in association with the Smithsonian in nearly all states, Puerto Rico, and Panama. More information is available at

The Smithsonian logo


X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out will be on view from October 15–January 2, inside the Nova Galleries. Admission to X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out is included with all museum admission tickets.

X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).


Artists and biologists meet in their shared desire to understand complex detail. Join them at this intersection, as fish specimens are displayed in extraordinary color and clarity in a new exhibition, Cleared

Through the combination of scientific staining techniques and the artistry of photography, art and science work in a reciprocal relationship to depict fish specimens. Clearing fish specimens and staining them with vivid colors illuminates their complex skeletal structure. Rendering this staining process in photographic detail, biologist Adam Summers, Professor of Biology and School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington, brings to attention the beauty of scientific processes and fishes. 

The Bell Museum will also share pieces from our own collection that illustrate the clearing and staining of fish specimens. Through these specimens, we invite you to look closely at what lies beneath the surface of both Minnesota’s inland fishes and other marine fishes from around the world.

Images by Adam Summers

Cleared will be on view from October 15–January 2, inside the Nova Galleries. Admission to Cleared is included with all museum admission tickets.

Additional Programs

Follow your curiosity to one of our Spotlight Science events or the Education Wing to learn more about fishes in Minnesota. During our Spotlight Science events, take a closer look at special specimens brought out from the Bell’s collection and learn from scientists and experts about fish diversity and conservation. In the Education Wing, see a display showing how fish are prepared for long-term preservation. Lastly, join us this Halloween season for the return of Spooky Science, where fish skeletons won’t be the only haunting thing in the museum.

Curator of Fishes Andrew Simmons in the collections and a close up image of fish specimens in a jar