Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, Mattawa River Visitor Centre
In the fall of 2010, Origin Studios and fabricator Holman Exhibits began work on a re-design of the Visitor Centre at the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, in Mattawa, Ontario. The existing 2500 square foot centre included a small shop, a park information area and interpretive displays about the history and importance of the Mattawa River and surrounding region. Our task was to redesign the existing space, develop an interpretive plan, content, an interpretation kiosk, as well as a new information and office area.
The exhibit area, dating back to the mid 1980s, was in dire need of an overhaul. While some aspects continued to be popular with younger and repeat visitors—the replica freight canoe for example—much of the display space was under-used. Working intensively with park staff and Ministry of Natural Resources heritage interpreters, we developed an entirely new storyline and communications strategy. Emphasizing the Mattawa as a “river of experiences,” we traced the deep geologic history of the river, through its use by First Nations as a key trade route, to its role in the fur trade, opening up the continent to Europeans. Using archival images, primary texts, and reproduced works of art, we presented the higher-level themes on large wall panels. More specific information, stories, small artifacts, and personal accounts were introduced on a reader rail, which flowed through the exhibits, emulating the river itself. What was a dated, uninspired visitor centre is now an engaging and beautiful space where visitors can explore broad themes and messages, or spend time interacting with individual stories and objects. The openness of the space encourages personalized exploration, while the strength of the overarching themes ensure an appreciation for the culture and history are easily imparted.
Ontario Parks, Mattawa, ON, 2011
Exhibit Space: 2,500 sq. ft.