The Exploration Place has been nominated for a 2020 BCMA Outstanding Achievement Award, Excellence in Community Engagement Award for their project “Critter Convos & Collection Vault Convos” a live video project which has allowed them to maintain engagement and connect with their audience in a new and innovative way.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge to all cultural institutions in our province, The Exploration Place included. Engaging with their audience has always been the organization’s goal, and suddenly closing their building made it imperative for them to find new and innovative ways to engage people in their community with their collections without anyone entering the building, and to do so quickly. The Exploration Place was the first museum in BC to begin delivering digital content during this time, a time when scientific and cultural literacy is more important than ever.
One of the most popular galleries at the Exploration Place is their natural history gallery, the Biome. The Biome houses many live animals, skulls, taxidermy, and more, giving them the opportunity to educate their visitors on these animals, their connections to region, each other, and heritage. Critter Convos began as Facebook Live events, with Head Keeper Sabrina taking center stage, sharing her vast knowledge of animal science and husbandry with our audience, and answering their questions in real time with our own CEO, Tracy Calogheros, behind the camera. These live virtual events are featured regularly on Prince George’s own fan-based Facebook page, Hell Yeah Prince George! Soon after the uptake and popular response to Critter Convos, they began broadcasting Collection Vault Convos with Assistant Curator Chad Hellenius, exploring artifacts in their collection as they relate to the area’s heritage, as well as prominent figures from Prince George’s history. It wasn’t long before connections were made between the natural history gallery and the collections vault. Critter Convos and Collection Vault Convos has explored the similarities and differences between prehistoric elk and present-time elk, discussed the biology of bears and the history behind bearskin hats, and talked about the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, with both Sabrina and Chad collaborating to offer new educational experiences for our visitors.
The response to these videos led to School District 57 requesting a more child-accessible platform so teachers in our district could incorporate these videos into their distance instruction. With each new video, The Exploration Place sees that the desire of the community to continue to interact with cultural institutions is still here, and the real need for accessible scientific and cultural content is not something that will disappear in the midst of a global pandemic.