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Ever-changing exhibitions at the Royal BC Museum

The latest in “always something new” at the Royal BC Museum is the Delta Dynamics and Diversity area, which has evolved from a static walk through into an interactive, colourful and updated learning experience, just completed this week.

“We haven’t lost the lifelike diorama with its shore birds and plants,” said RBCM CEO Pauline Rafferty, “but we’ve improved it and completely transformed the surrounding area. Working with a minimal budget and keeping the work in-house, we’re sharing a renewed story about BC’s deltas and their life forms.”

The museum’s continued reputation for creating world-class displays is partly due to its highly talented design and exhibitions team. They worked with less than $30,000, but used plenty of creativity and their wide variety of skills, from mold-making or scene painting to joinery or computer game design.  This in-house capability is becoming a rarity in the museum world, but one that the Royal BC Museum recognizes as being ideal when it comes to sharing the B.C. story.

In the new area, binoculars are available along the slightly raised plank boardwalk as part of a game to identify the species on display.  Touch screens provide more details and are positioned low enough for children to explore.  A curator talks about bird migration via a listening post next to a map of the Pacific flyway.

New interpretive panels are colourful and full of information and images about the variety of habitats found in deltas: from sandy beaches, mud flats and eelgrass meadows to marshes, bogs and woodlands.

A life-sized image of a young White Sturgeon lies next to a ruler and its own timeline on the panel entitled “A Long Fish Tale.”

This youngster was born in 1935 and survived until 2010 when it had reached a length of 2.5 metres (8 ft) and 13 kg (290 lbs).  The peak of the commercial harvest of White Sturgeon on the Fraser River was in 1897; the harvest only ended in 1994.

The renewed exhibition is information-rich.  In B.C,. estuaries began forming about 10,000 years ago.

They form just a fraction of our rugged coast, less than three per cent, so are some of the rarest ecosystems in our province.  There are eight major estuaries – the Nass, Skeena, Delkatla, Comox, Chemainus, Cowichan, Fraser and Nanaimo – along approximately 25,000 km of BC’s coastline.

Visitors learn that the Fraser River has the largest estuary on North America’s Pacific Coast.  The river drains 25% of our province and its delta grows seaward at a rate of 3 metres (10 ft) per year.  Aerial images show the “plume” of sediment stretching out into the ocean.  Drawings show the changing landscapes of 10,000 and 5,000 years ago when much of Richmond, Surrey, White Rock and Delta didn’t exist and Pt. Roberts was an island.  Today, more than 700,000 people live in those same areas.

Other panels show the areas of the Lower Mainland flooded in 1948, and the extensive dike system built to protect them.

The downside of this engineering, from a natural history perspective, is that more than 70 per cent of the Fraser River wetlands have been diked, drained or filled.

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