Next week is a big week for nature sites, museums, parks, and all other interpretive centers across the country. It is the week when we all gather together and discuss best practices, share our stories, share our successes, and celebrate awards. That’s right – it’s the week of the annual NAI National Conference! The National Association for Interpretation continues to be the guiding light in our field, educating and inspiring generation after generation of interpreters and exhibit designers.
This year we were honored to be given two prestigious awards by the NAI. We won First Prize for Interior Exhibits in the Interpretive Media Awards Competition, for our work at Logoly State Park Visitor Center in McNeil, Arkansas. We also took home Third Prize in the same category for our work with Indiana State Museum on their Natural Regions Gallery.
To celebrate the week of the conference – and our humble gratitude toward NAI for this year’s honors – we thought that we’d give a brief recap of the work that we did for Logoly State Park. The park is a gem of nature-based education and recreation. It is but one of the many jewels of the Arkansas state park system.
We were honored to design, build, and install the interpretive exhibits for Logoly’s new visitor center, which opened to the public in 2016. The exhibits tell the natural and cultural history of the remarkable site, in a creative and highly engaging fashion. Visitors are met with a sense of wonder and whimsy as they enter, and a unique storytelling approach immerses visitors intimately into the story of the Logoly forest. A young beech tree sapling introduces itself as the story’s narrator, and this same beech tree, as it ages through time via grand illustrations, leads the visitors throughout the entire exhibit space and through the history of the forest.
In the first “chapter” of the story, visitors enter the immersive and engaging forest habitat. They are introduced to interactive, multisensory activities and learn to search for icons that indicate opportunities to see, hear, smell, and touch. A large “aquarium wall” with live animals helps teach about life in the forest’s streams. “Discovery drawers” and “discovery holes” invite curious visitors to learn about wildlife creeping below the surface. Visitors can crawl through a large sculpted model of a fallen tree and learn about the natural life-cycle of all living things. At a “discovery table,” they craft their own nature poetry and art which becomes part of the exhibit itself.
In the second “chapter” of the story, visitors enter the springs. Once again, hands-on interactives, multisensory stations, live animal enclosures, and vivid graphics combine for an immersive experience. The final “chapter” focuses on preservation. Captivating graphics teach visitors the history of preserving the site. Bringing the final focus intently on the visitors themselves, the gallery culminates with a “citizen science station” where visitors learn how they too can help preserve Logoly for all future generations.
In the area? Definitely check it out! Far from Arkansas? Check out our album of photos from the exhibits. We were so honored to create such a special experience for our friends at Logoly!