Bilin­gual ex­hibits

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

How­ever, there is a place in Sher­brooke where the won­ders of the Earth are cel­e­brated ev­ery day: the Sher­brooke Na­ture Science Mu­seum. When I first vis­ited the Na­ture Science Mu­seum in the late 1980’s, when it was lo­cated in the Sem­i­naire de Sher­brooke, my chil­dren and I were fas­ci­nated by the ex­hibit of an­i­mal and bird spec­i­mens and mounted in­sects.

But since my last visit, the mu­seum has un­der­gone quite a change, thanks in large part to the ef­forts of Sher­brooke’s for­mer mayor, Jean Per­rault. The con­ver­sion of the Julius Kayser Com­pany’s tex­tile fac­tory on Duf­ferin Street into the new lo­cale for the mu­seum be­gan in 2000 and was com­pleted by Oc­to­ber of 2002. The trans­for­ma­tion was quite im­pres­sive; the new mu­seum was awarded a Prix d’ex­cel­lence in 2003 from the Cana­dian Mu­seum As­so­ci­a­tion and re­ceived the Lau­reat Or des Grands prix du Tourisme que­be­cois in 2004. It now has two per­ma­nent ex­hibits, sev­eral tem­po­rary ex­hibits a year and many other ac­tiv­i­ties for dif­fer­ent age groups. As the mu­seum’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Marie-Claude Bibeau put it: “If you haven’t been to the mu­seum in the last four months, there’s some­thing here that you haven’t seen!”

My re­cent tour of the mu­seum be­gan in the base­ment, in the heart of the mu­seum’s re­serve col­lec­tion of over 65,000 nat­u­ral ob­jects and spec­i­mens. The mu­seum was launch­ing its new­est ‘in­ven­tion’: a vir­tual tour, avail­able in French and English, of its col­lec­tions in stor­age that can be ac­cessed on the in­ter­net at­ture­sciences. “There are dif­fer­ent ways to take the tour. You can take a vir­tual tour, open­ing draw­ers; you can go fur­ther and get more in­for­ma­tion about the an­i­mal or ob­ject; you can visit the col­lec­tion the­mat­i­cally; or you can play games like a trea­sure hunt,” ex­plained the mu­seum’s cu­ra­tor, Serge Gau­thier, at the launch.

Steven Bolduc, who works as a sub­sti­tute teacher and was at the launch, has tried the vir­tual tour in the class­room. “We used a Smart­board and the stu­dents got re­ally ex­cited. I think the vir­tual mu­seum site is per­fect for peo­ple who think they wouldn’t like to visit a mu­seum,” said Mr. Bolduc.

The Cy­cle of the Sea­sons, a per­ma­nent ex­hibit filled with many of the an­i­mal spec­i­mens I re­mem­bered from the old mu­seum, was the next stop of the tour. Here we can learn about the birthing sea­son of an­i­mals, how they build their homes and how they man­age to sur­vive in our cold cli­mate. You can even crawl into a skunk’s lit­tle home to see what it’s like from the in­side!

Terra Mu­tan­tés, the other per­ma­nent ex­hibit, was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. The multi-me­dia and multi-sen­sory show ex­plores the birth of the Ap­palachian moun­tains and the his­tory of the land of the East­ern Town­ships with the help of three large film screens, a boom­ing voice, a hands-on, in­ter­ac­tive, vi­brat­ing ta­ble (if you can imag­ine such a thing) and steam, mist and snow. It was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot of sur­pris­ing things, ge­o­graph­i­cally and his­tor­i­cally speak­ing, about this re­gion.

The tem­po­rary A River runs through it ex­hibit, which runs un­til Septem­ber, 2011, ex­plores the se­crets of our rivers with many in­ter­ac­tive, child-friendly in­stal­la­tions, all built in the mu­seum’s work­shop by a team of skilled work­ers who also build science ex­hibits for museums across the coun­try and in the United States. “We are the big­gest ex­porter of science ex­hibits in Canada,” ex­plained Mrs. Bibeau proudly. The next tem­po­rary ex­hibit is called What’s for Din­ner and will open this June.

This fam­ily-friendly mu­seum is a ‘must­see’ if you have chil­dren; there were sev­eral school groups tour­ing it while I was there and I didn’t see one bored child, not even among the high school stu­dents who were tour­ing the re­serve col­lec­tion in the base­ment. Be­com­ing a mem­ber of the mu­seum is an­other op­tion which, for a low price, al­lows un­lim­ited vis­its to the mu­seum and use of the ‘na­ture counter’ where mem­bers can bor­row spec­i­mens for projects. “The skunks and beavers are very pop­u­lar,” said the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor. Mem­bers also have free ad­mis­sion to many other science and na­ture museums across Canada, such as the Mon­treal Science Cen­tre and the Canada Science and Tech­nol­ogy Mu­seum, in Ot­tawa.

Fin­ish­ing the tour, Mrs. Bibeau said: “In our mu­seum chil­dren can talk, touch things, run. It’s a mu­seum for kids!”

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

An an­i­ma­tor at the Sher­brooke Science and Na­ture Mu­seum talks with high school stu­dents who were en­joy­ing tour­ing the ‘Re­serves’.

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