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New Visitor Center Exhibition at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge

Ideum developed a complete exhibition plan interpreting Rio Grande ecosystems and their links to local communities.
Authored by
Rebecca Shreckengast

Ideum is excited to announce our upcoming full-service installation of a new exhibition at the Visitor Center at Valle do Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque’s South Valley. We are working with our clients and partners: CF Padilla - Brycon, Valle de Oro NWR, and the Friends of Valle de Oro to complete this project.

Ideum developed a seamless 2,000 sf exhibition design to serve the multi-function community needs of the Refuge in their highly anticipated new building. Ideum’s innovative multimedia concepts are seamlessly integrated into the Center’s exhibits, introducing each life zone of the Rio Grande Valley while visually representing their links to each other and to the people who live there. The exhibit work includes content development, arts integration, community workshops, exhibit and graphic design, and interpretive signage.

The unique vision of the Refuge is to provide the coupled functions of an interpretive center with those of a community center benefiting the residents of Albuquerque's South Valley. The center explores the ecology of the Middle Rio Grande Valley while also providing visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities with a place they can feel at home in nature and in their community: a place for gathering, reading, meditation, appreciation of local art & voices, and enjoyment of natural surroundings.

The experience is cohesive with the materials and lines of the architecture, but caters to different learning modalities: visual; auditory; social; and kinesthetic. It mixes different exhibit mediums, such as artifacts and specimens, hands-on interactives, multimedia, and sensory experiences. Ecosystem dioramas explore the entwined relationships of species in the different life zones. A mechanically interactive exhibit invites visitors to “turn nature’s gears” to discover how a backyard habitat can be impacted by human behavior.

Interactive media connects displayed artifacts to stories, tying diverse communities together through their shared and relevant histories with the land. And a comfortable gathering area allows the center to host a community space for the refuge’s diverse stakeholders, while also providing families with small children opportunities for hands-on educational play adjacent to cell-phone chargers, durable seating, and a participatory artwork.

To develop the design, Ideum hosted interpretive workshops that invited participation and feedback of community stakeholders in the creative process. Local residents and businesses heavily shape the goals and offerings of the Center. Community artists are contributing as well.

We are thrilled to have applied best practices from inception to final production and installation of Valle de Oro’s Visitor Center experience: welcoming diverse communities into the exhibit development process; integrating the most robust multimedia systems design and fabrication methods; and designing and implementing accessible systems for the sight and hearing impaired.

But more than simply meeting high standards, we also innovated. Interactive exhibits are built into the public restroom plumbing. For example, a “river of light” explores the history and future of environmental change, and visitors can plan their day through a “digital docent” tied into real-time weather, a dynamic public program schedule, and iNaturalist observations.

We can’t wait to bring our friends and families together to explore the refuge when it’s ready.