As the ground works continue outside we have been turning our attention to those bits of display that can be done before we get the extension in our hands. One of the important areas is the new Undersea World, now to become a more interactive space called “Coast Explorers”.
While we want to keep the “immersive” feel to the new Undersea World, and make use of our specimens, we also want to include more opportunities for learning about our remarkable coastline and marine biodiversity. We have met with members of Coastwise, the local volunteer group which both monitors and educates people about our coastal environment, and applied for funding to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Sustainable Development Fund. We are delighted to say we have been successful in securing another £4000 to boost our existing budget.
The new gallery, located adjacent to the existing Tarka Gallery of natural history, will partly recreate the immersive experience of the old display, but include much more information, presented through physical and digital interactives to facilitate greater engagement for visitors and increase their knowledge. The Gallery will also include a section about the important coastal environment of Braunton Burrows and the Biosphere for the first time, aiming to encourage people to explore, learn about and care for our important natural and historic assets within the AONB, including discussion of topical issues such as plastics.
Coast Explorers will include portholes into the undersea section to enable good views of our existing specimens, as if you are in a submarine. It will include many more interactive opportunities to learn about our coastal creatures.
We see the process of creating this gallery as very much one of building relationships with Coastwise and other local groups and individuals, and developing natural history volunteering at the museum. This will lead to more opportunities – for example, as we are located in Barnstaple, with its concentration of schools, we will explore the possibility of working together to create “taster sessions” based on our collections that could lead on to coast visits (for example in collaboration with Combe Martin Museum).
We also expect to continue the collaboration as we create displays around the early history of the North Devon Athenaeum in the current Museum Library – this includes seashell collections, herbaria and significant seaweed collections that can form part of learning sessions as well as the new gallery.