A few years ago, Taylor Studios designed new nature center exhibits for Turkey Run State Park in central Indiana. My role in the project was as project manager, representing Indiana State Parks.
Turkey Run State Park features a steep, narrow sandstone canyon. The moderate moist micro-climate within the canyon is representative of a climate found there thousands of years ago. Plants living in the canyon are more commonly seen in northern Michigan and Canada, but not in Indiana.
Taylor’s concept included a beautiful entry feature with stonework representing the look and feel of Rocky Hollow Canyon. The feature met visitors at the entrance to the exhibit hall, setting the tone for the site and visitor experience.
Over the course of its design, however, the feature became more than an atmosphere-setting piece.
At the park interpreter’s suggestion, coal seams and iron rust marks were added to the feature – incorporating important geologic stories of the canyon. These additions made the feature more than an entry experience.
By incorporating details into the entry feature, it now serves as:
- A starting location for hikes. The interpreter starts her canyon hikes at the feature, using it as a visual aid to explain how the canyon formed. The added details show hikers what to look for while in the canyon.
- A visual aid for roving interpretation. Frequently people will return from their own canyon hikes to the nature center with questions. The feature is a helpful tool used by interpretive staff in answering those questions.
- A realistic exhibit. For visitors to the nature center, the entry feature conveys information and realism for those who may not be able to visit the canyon themselves due to time or access issues.
By incorporating site-specific, realistic touches into an entry exhibit, the exhibit becomes more useful and adaptable to a variety of interpretative situations.
Authored by: Lise Schools, Owner, Interpretive Ideas, Okemos, MI