Since I was a kid, my favourite part of the Aquarium has always been the free-flight jungle in the Graham Amazon Gallery. I love the way I feel as soon as I enter through the screened doors – I feel a blast of warmth, the humidity and sometimes even a drop of water on my head. I love watching the sloths as they lumber through the tree canopy high above, and I also love breathing in deeply, filling my lungs with the smell of fresh tropical foliage. It’s a truly immersive experience that obviously has a lot of thought and planning behind it.

Remember when the Tropic Zone looked like this?

Remember when the Tropic Zone looked like this?

What visitors feel when they wander through the Aquarium galleries does not come about by accident. Working on the exhibit-design side of things for a year and a half now, I have realized that there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make someone feel like they’re in a particular place or to evoke a particular feeling: the rockwork that flank the exhibits in Treasures of the BC Coast, the croaking sounds in Frogs Forever? and the lighting in Our World, just to give a couple of examples. And further to these examples, digital technology has permeated into these spaces over the years, influencing the graphic and interpretive (educational) content.

I recently took part in an online “webinar” hosted by the American Alliance of Museums about innovative uses of technology in educational facilities. The presentations included different uses of iPads, interactive uses of touch screens and tips on how to better blend technology with interpretation. For the most part, these are resources that are already available at the Aquarium, although more can and will be done as technology changes. In the meantime, join us for Luminescence: A Celebration of Aquatic Light this winter and experience the latest way in which we’ve incorporated digital technology.

As for me, I’ll be keeping warm in the Graham Amazon gallery…

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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