Day 4 Zoo & Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens

Cheryl, Devra, and Catherine were excellent hosts today at the Smithsonian National Zoo. The zoo is really not so different than any other museum in that you have to create content and exhibits that people will be interested to visit. The zoo appears to be in a transitional phase (like the National Air & Space Museum) where it is trying to incorporate the personal human story. The zoos attention to Smithsonian scientists and researchers’ stories at the beginning of the Asia Trail is a good example of how personal stories are being told. The boots on display were an interesting object choice. I would have liked to see more though! The photography exhibit also showcased the elements of human stories. It may not be the zoo’s main attraction, but it shows visitors how the zoo appreciates loyalty. It was really interesting to hear that exhibition design skills can transfer, and that it doesn’t matter if you are designing around a 300 + lb. animal or a portrait of Katy Perry. I liked how the zoo (and Hillwood) are attempting to be more inclusive when it comes to visitor’s needs. At the zoo, they talked about making the bird exhibit bilingual, and my thought was if you can do one why not do them all; however, after visiting Hillwood and hearing the price tag for translations I understand that it is a funding issue not because they don’t want it.

Some things that stuck out from Hillwood were: Guided Serendipity, the three choices for touring the estate- docent, printed, audio, and that it is best to give choices that have equal value, so guests are not overwhelmed. I didn’t find myself enjoying the audio tour because I like the sounds of museums etc. and it completes my experience to hear docents giving tours or other visitors pointing out objects that catch their eye. Lucky for me, they have printed guides. There was a lot of great information from both the zoo and the museum, which makes it really hard to sum it all up in these short blurbs.

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