The following question from Sherry comes from our “Ask a Nerd!” file:
What can you suggest for an exhibit idea that is exciting and interactive while addressing a variety of calls to action for an endangered species?
We’re never short on opinions and offering ideas. We’ll take on any question, professional or personal. Our first goal with IBD is to take on current issues in design and interpretation. Our second goal is to make the world a better place (we’re confident that can be achieved through IBD). We’ve fielded several “Ask a Nerd” questions so far, and we are grateful for the valuable responses to those questions from the “Nerd Herd” (our loyal readers). Thank you herd, for helping us make the world a better place!
Okay, so what would I suggest for an exhibit on endangered species that is exciting and interactive while still evoking a call to action? Wow, this is tough. I would think of how an interpreter would take on these issues during a personal presentation. In most cases, I feel interpretation through a person is better than a non-personal approach. (There are exceptions to this, and perhaps that’s another post.)
As an interpreter, my first goal in creating a program is to build rapport with the audience. I want them to know who I am, what I’m about, why I’m here, and what I do. I also want to find out about them. This engages the audience and sets the stage for developing a connection to the resource and eventually evokes the response (or the call to action).
So let’s say our subject revolves around the Bald Eagle. My first goal in developing an exhibit would be to engage the audience in the subject/resource and with each other (so they see what others think or where they stand in the big picture of things). Just as in a personal presentation, I would solicit input from the audience.
So, how do you do this? It could be something as simple as a dry erase board or log book, where visitors entering the exhibit write in where they are from and how old they were when they first saw an eagle. Or it could be something as complex as a computer kiosk where visitors log in and share their experience with bald eagles. With a kiosk the data that is created can be compiled into a simple database that allows visitors to search for comments by state, age, etc. The first key is to involve the visitor immediately and get them invested into the experience.
Now that the visitors are invested, the focus should be on building emotional and intellectual connections with your message or resource. This is where the creativity can really flow. I love the use of characters as guides in exhibits. I would use a character to build the connections in much the same way an interpreter would.
The type of character would depend on the mission of the interpretive site. If these exhibits were in a scientific type facility, I would use a “kooky”-ologist. If it were a kid-friendly facility, I would us an anthropomorphic eagle. Who better to tell the story than the eagles themselves? Visitors can relate to the universals of family, survival, trying to better themselves, etc., all stories that the eagle can tell. Engage the senses here. The use of sound in this case eagle’s calls, smells of eagle’s favorite foods, use metaphors to compare feathers for visitors to touch and images that support your themes.
Now it is time for the call to action for your visitors. The visitors have invested, committed, and built emotional and intellectual connections. But what do you want them to do? Act. The call could be to learn more about you site, donate money for support, volunteer to save eagles, or something as simple as getting out of the visitor center to see some eagles in their habitat.
The secret to a call to action is that it must be attainable and something that visitors can act on quickly. As visitors get farther from the interpretive experience, the chance of the responding is greatly decreased. If you are interpreting for a cause and need funds, have the donation box ready within the exhibit. Don’t forget to carefully explain how the donations will be used. If you want them to go see the eagles, tell them when, where and how. If you want them to volunteer, sign them up on the spot.
Anyone in the herd have any other ideas to help Sherry?