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The Exploration Place looks to community to help build a living wall of plants

The Exploration Place’s finance manager and self-described plant nerd Barbara Laass.

Closing a museum and then figuring out what staff needs to do to reopen is pretty much the definition of “building the plane while you’re flying it” but the last year hasn’t really given staff at The Exploration Place much of a choice.

The Exploration Place is both a Class A museum and a hands-on Science Centre and that hybrid approach has led staff to rethink and redevelop its galleries and programs from scratch.

“In addition to laying off our incredible team we were forced to defer travelling and in house exhibits, close our Integrated Learning childcare programs and shutter the Little Prince steam engine,” said CEO Tracy Calogheros. “Our earned revenue streams were decimated and the projections for long term recovery in our industry are dismal at best.  But not here in Prince George.  Your museum has a plan, has grants in hand and on request and is now coming to the public for the first time seeking your help.”

One of the key redevelopments is the brand new palaeo-botany hall.  This gallery will fill what was the atrium, with dinosaur sculptures and specimens, living animals with connections to their palaeo-ancestors and an almost 90-foot long living wall of plants.  This gallery will feature family bubble seating pods, each nestled in their own nook, surrounded by plants and the Animal Ambassadors, complete with charging stations, individual screens for presentations and the assurance that each space is socially distanced from other family bubbles and is fully sanitized between user groups.

“It is a complete redevelopment of our galleries; one that I am so excited to share with the community,” said Calogheros. “We are asking the community to help us out by sharing their own love of plants with us.  Our team botanist, Chad Hellenius has started to make species selections in coordination with our head keeper Sabrina. There are a number of plants that are commonly grown as house plants so we thought this was a great time to ask the public for their contributions.”

Pothos, Swiss Cheese and Dracaena plants are very common and the museum is asking you to take a cutting off of your healthy houseplants and bring it to us at the Museum between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. this Sunday, January 17.

“We are going to need somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,000 plants just for the living wall and that gets expensive even at $4 a plant,” said Calogheros. “We are hoping to tap into Prince George’s legendary generosity and collect cuttings that we can get growing now so we are ready this spring to plant the wall.”

Please take a clipping at least four inches long and/or with at least four leaves from a healthy, bug free plant.  Bring them to the museum wrapped in a wet paper towel in a zip lock baggie and they will process them from there.  Staff will be meeting people at the front doors of the museum, practicing social distancing and wearing masks between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday January 17 (this Sunday).

They are also seeking umbrella trees, rubber plants and other larger species for the plantings that will fill the palaeo-botany hall beyond the wall.

“Anyone with a large plant that is no longer fitting their space should reach out to Chad at the museum to explore whether or not their species will fit the curatorial plan for this indoor botanical garden,” saidCalogheros, “we have set up a new email just for this project… plants@theexplorationplace.com

They will accept cuttings from umbrella trees and rubber plants this Sunday as well, but please, nothing potted in dirt this weekend.

This is just the first of many announcements to the community this winter and spring.  the museum has a new curatorial database on the way very soon, summer programming and the opening of the Little Prince Steam Engine, all before they, hopefully, cut the ribbon on the renovations inside on July 1. 

“The Museum has always enjoyed a great relationship with our community,” said Calogheros. “We are so eager to expand on this historic relationship once we are able to share our Living Evolution Project with everyone.”


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