Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania received an Excellence in Exhibition Design Award for Out on a Limb – a Tree Adventure exhibit. The award was announced at the recent American Association of Museums (AAM) Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo™ in Los Angeles on May 25, 2010, and determined by a select panel of judges composed of museums professionals.
Out on a Limb – a Tree Adventure exhibit emerged from a nation-wide field of 16 entries to earn the honor. In announcing the award, the judges cited Out on a Limb – a Tree Adventure exhibit as “imaginative, exciting and innovative. This exhibition succeeds in combining kids’ desire for adventure and parents’ interest in safety into a fun sense of perceived danger. Highly worth a visit to see!”
The competition judges were guided by the National Association of Museum Exhibitions (NAME) Standards for Museum Exhibition and Indicators of Excellence. Among the criteria imposed upon entrants was the relevancy of exhibition media, content and design to its theme, subject, collection and audience. This was the 22nd year of the competition.
Morris Arboretum’s Tree Adventure exhibit is an arboretum-wide exhibit with a central theme that explores the relationship between plants and people with its overriding message: we need trees, and trees need us. The exhibit begins on the dramatic and iconic structure Out on a Limb, which takes visitors 50 feet up into the treetops for a true bird’s eye view of the forest. From Out on a Limb, visitors can cross a Suspension Bridge to a giant Bird’s Nest (complete with huge robin’s eggs for children to sit on), scamper onto the Squirrel Scramble’s rope netting skirting two towering trees, head to the top of the Wissahickon Vista platform for sweeping views, or just wander along the 450 feet of canopy walkway, rising high above the forest floor. Designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, Out on a Limb is fully accessible to strollers and wheelchairs alike, providing the sense of climbing a tree for anyone who experiences it.
To explore the rest of the Tree Adventure exhibit, visitors are given a Passport to Adventure to travel the arboretum’s 92-acre garden and learn the critical role trees play in our environment. Other stations include learning about living fossils, trees’ root systems, comparing nature’s temperatures, and experiencing life in another era.
“What is especially rewarding to see is people of all ages engaging with the exhibit, not just having fun, but learning about trees and the importance of caring for them in our communities. The exhibit has been terrific for attendance as well. It has increased gate attendance by 46% since we opened last July, including many first time visitors to the Morris Arboretum. And they are becoming members; the number of new members has grown by 118% and our membership is the highest it’s ever been,” says Morris Arboretum Director, Paul Meyer. “Morris Arboretum is honored to receive this prestigious national award from AAM.” Meyers continued.
The entries for the competition came from museums large and small, reflecting the vast array of museum types, including art, history, children’s, science, zoos and aquariums.
“Our world and our audiences demand creativity, scholarship and authenticity in museum exhibits these days,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “Clearly the winners of this prestigious competition have met ─ and exceeded ─ these benchmarks, as evidenced by the reaction of the public and their peers.”
The Morris Arboretum is a 92-acre horticulture display garden that features a spectacular collection of rare and mature trees and colorful gardens. The Arboretum features numerous picturesque spots such as a formal rose garden, swan pond, meadows and the elegant Fernery, the only existing one in North America. The Morris Arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.