Ken Hoke, Exhibits Director at Butterfly Pavilion
When I started imagining what life as the new Butterfly Pavilion Exhibits Director would be like way back in January, there was no way I could have anticipated what the incredible staff and myself would come up with. We called it Survival—an exhibit that teaches how various terrestrial invertebrates have evolved to survive in their environments. Working closely with our super-smart scientists in our Curatorial Department, the brilliant Interpretation team and the support of everyone who works here, we were able to develop a new way to present animals and their stories. We integrated loads of technology into the experience and some really cool critters. The future holds many more exciting and innovative experiences like this for our guests.
I came into this amazing team environment with tons of skills and experience but there are many challenges every day when working to keep our zoo a fun and immersive experience for all—like using interactive media that doesn’t turn a kiddo into a zombie but inspires them to ask about how insect biology works. My approach is to use simple interactive screens to get the conversation going, like using audiovisual (AV) technology to deepen what I call the “Z-axis” of interpretive information–the experience achieved by watching video or being attracted to animations playing on large TVs. If a picture speaks a thousand words then a video speaks volumes. Done correctly, video can be entertaining while educating and designed so it becomes an element that supports the whole exhibit.
Our upcoming projects include an expanded play area and fully immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences in the new Invertebrate World. This popular room will be seeing some big changes starting with a Colorado backyard theme. At my house, my four and five year old daughters are most concerned about pill bugs and lady bugs, but it is a rich world of life in the backyards of Colorado—a state of many biomes. Some invertebrates live here, some pass through. In this new exhibit, kiddos will be able to climb around simulated Colorado habitats and find hidden adventures like chasing aquatic invertebrates or finding hidden inhabitants. The amazing Exhibits team here is brainstorming and planning fun ways for our guests to learn about their closest neighbors, while getting some wiggles out at the same time.
In another part of this new exhibit, there will be an area for VR goggles that transport the viewer to one of our research adventures in some remote part of the world. As we gather scientific data from around the globe, we will seize the opportunity to capture the 360° scenes and look over our scientists shoulders to see what they are working with and the discoveries being made.
Also, in the area now known as “No Bone Zone” on the east side of Invertebrate World, we plan to install an exhibit space that will house temporary exhibits and refresh quarterly or biannually. This space will be home to themed exhibits, travelling exhibits and special attractions.
This re-imagined Invertebrate World will be our practice run for our biggest adventure yet.
I have to share how excited I am about the future we call CIRC, or the Center for Invertebrate Research and Conservation—a brand new facility to make a landmark and truly amazing experience. This is an opportunity for us to take our vision and passion for invertebrates and their stories to a new and expanded platform. There will be so much to see and experience. The world of invertebrates is all around us but we literally step over it and that world is very misunderstood. What kind of experiences can we build to help us connect with their world? How can we better communicate how important they are to all of us? It is an exciting time here at Butterfly Pavilion.
Before all that, though, we have my first Bugtober coming up and I am already thinking about how “Toxic Terrors” is going to be more fun than a barrel full of various black widows. Wait, what?