The new Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center offers multiple ways to find information about the site. Beyond being able to chat with refuge staff, visitors can also consult a Digital Docent, a custom interactive designed and built by Ideum. The Digital Docent provides users with a variety of content and information about both the refuge and the land around it. For example, visitors can explore an interactive map of the refuge and surrounding areas, learn about how the refuge was founded, and read about those working hard on a range of important conservation efforts. They can also easily access information about weather conditions, upcoming events and programming, and how they can get involved.
When visitors first enter the refuge, they are greeted by front desk staff and offered help with any questions they may have. Directly to the left is another option, one of the center’s two Digital Docents. The display offers a selection of beautiful scrolling photos of the refuge as well as the current date, time, and temperature, hours of operation, and the time of sunrise and sunset. Some elements, such as the weather conditions, are live data. Visitors can also switch between English and Spanish at any time.
Additional options give visitors more information to explore. One button brings up an interactive map showing the refuge and surrounding area, including information about recent wildlife sightings. Another button invites visitors to learn more about the refuge itself, such as volunteer opportunities and new or ongoing initiatives. A calendar lets refuge staff post information about upcoming events. And visitors can also choose to explore the community, with information about the Mountain View neighborhood, nearby trails, art murals in the area, and more.
The center’s other Digital Docent is located in a multipurpose room. This one is ideal for use by those attending the refuge for programming and meetings held in the space. Both locations feature the same information and functionality.
When creating these Digital Docents, Ideum knew that refuge staff would need to be able to update the content regularly, such as for the events section. With this in mind, a content management system (CMS) was integrated with the Digital Docent stations. Refuge staff can use the CMS to edit the content presented at the Docents. In fact, the CMS is connected with all other digital exhibits present in the refuge visitor center, allowing staff to use a single portal system to update content in all of them.
As with all Ideum exhibits, accessibility and ease of use were key factors in designing the Digital Docents. These stations provide an opportunity for visitors to access as much information as they want in the most comfortable way possible. For example, we’ve learned that some visitors may not want to speak directly with other people, such as those wearing official-looking uniforms. The Digital Docent allows visitors to gain important information about the refuge while avoiding stressful or unexpected interactions. Meeting visitors where they are is a vital part of proper planning for and providing accessibility options.
We look forward to learning more about how visitors to Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge use these interactives, and what they add to the visitor center space and experience.