Extreme Makeover: AIC Edition

As I’m sitting here in the office, I can hear the sound of a power drill whirring  – for the first time in 31 years, our exhibit room is getting a makeover! Our construction team – Joel and Joe – are drilling, sawing and hammering as they prepare the room for a new look and design.

Our two-man construction team prepping the exhibit room for its new design.

Two summers ago, construction began with the deconstruction of the existing display. While the exhibit had some great elements, it was outdated and needed to be replaced. The faded pictures filled with shoulder pads and dated haircuts were thrown away. I can confidently say that they are not missed.

ESF students helped to take apart the preexisting exhibit in May 2012

Now that the various kinks, politics and finances have been sorted out, we are beginning to rebuild. While Joel and Joe are hard at work in the exhibit room, in the office our staff, with the help of the Art of Wilderness‘s Bob McNamara, is slaving over the exhibit design. We ask ourselves “what stories do we want to tell and how do we tell them?”

Well, the story begins with one simple statement: We are here because of the forest.

Think about it. Imagine the Adirondack Park without its tall white pines, interweaving waterways and scenic mountains. Would you come here for your vacation? Would you want to protect it?  Would you appreciate it? Maybe, maybe not. But we do know the Park would be unrecognizable without its forest.

It is because of the countless picturesque features of the Adirondacks that draw people here.

It is because of the countless picturesque features of the Adirondacks that draw people here.

One of the goals of the Northern Forest Institute, the outreach program that manages the AIC, is to promote environmental literacy and appreciation of the Adirondack and Northern Forest regions. What better way to do this then dedicating our exhibit room, aptly named The Northern Forest Room, to the natural resources and communities that define the forest? We can’t think of any.

The Story

With more than 350 square feet in the room, we have plenty of space to tell our story:

The east wall has been named the Northern Forest Wall. Extending from the Tug Hill Plateau in New York to the border with Canada in Maine and encompassing the Adirondack Park, the Northern Forest of eastern US is filled with natural resources and has a rich history of human inhabitance and natural resource use. It is on this wall that we will explore the many resources in the forest, for it is because of the many uses and benefits of them that the park is the one-of-a-kind it is today.

Preliminary design sketch of the Northern Forest Wall (Art of Wilderness)

We’ve all heard the phrase “put yourself into someone else’s shoes,” but what about their hats? The Northern Forest Wall will include a fun, interactive display showcasing the various stakeholders in the park, both past and present, represented by their headwear. Try on a hard hat and learn about the life as a 20th and 21st century logger, or check out a ski hat and explore the role winter sports as had on the economy and culture of the communities in the region.

Humans aren’t the only living beings in the Park, many other animals and countless plants call the Northern Forest home. At the other side of the room, on the Forest Community Wall these individuals will have a chance to shine. Mounts, pictures and text blocks will embody the many assemblages of wildlife and native plants that can be found in aquatic and terrestrial environments throughout the forest.

While mounts and pictures let us see these creatures up close and personal, sometimes we want to see the real thing. To allow year-round wildlife viewing, the wall is interspaced with three oversized glass-plate windows offering a wonderful view of the forest right outside.

Preliminary design sketch for the Forest Communities Wall (Art of Wilderness)

Preliminary design sketch for the Forest Communities Wall (Art of Wilderness)

A Space for Learning, Exploring and Conversing

Along with the new exhibits, the Northern Forest Room will include an array of comfy chairs and benches, field guides and binoculars for guests to use, and a wood pellet stove. While enjoying the warmth of the fire, guests can learn, watch and study wildlife found right outside. The room will also be used for hosting small, personal meetings and various programming for public, school and professional groups.

“Sounds awesome, when can I see it?”

We hope to have our Northern Forest Room completed and open to the public by February of next year. Keep an eye out for updates as we get closer!

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2 thoughts on “Extreme Makeover: AIC Edition

  1. I cannot remember if you are at the Paul Smith’s location or in Newcomb. Always enjoyed both Centers when camping in the area….still have my Butterfly House pin from Paul Smith’s location….

    • Dorothea, we are at the Newcomb “VIC”, now renamed the Adirondack Interpretive Center. Glad to hear you enjoyed the centers!

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