Case Study

Frenchman Bay Conservancy

Large touch table and monitors for displaying regional conservation data and preserve info, plus motion-activated nature sounds, and a digital guestbook in a small visitor center
Frenchman Bay Conservancy
Hancock, Maine
John Lightfoot Greiner
Node, D3, GIS, Arduino

Located at the beautiful Tidal Falls Preserve in downeast Maine, Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) conserves lands, ecosystems, and waters for the benefit of all. With an underutilized space in their headquarters and the goal of engaging visitors more deeply with their work, FBC approached Perch to design its visitor’s center and a number of integrated interactive exhibits.

The FBC Exploration Center is an interactive space that introduces visitors to the concept of conservation, helps them discover local preserves, and shines a light on the environmental and social pressures that shape Maine’s landscape.


Discovery & Branding

We began work with FBC in 2018 with a quick discovery phase that helped us identify key themes that the new visitor center should address. By organizing the themes by both importance and complexity, we were able to establish guidelines for our eventual design work: inspire visitors to explore the FBC preserves without upstaging them through technological gimmicks, tell the story of conservation in a way that is inclusive of all Mainers, and get kids excited about experiencing nature by giving them the tools they need to appreciate the outdoors.

Our concepts followed these themes. Drawing on the natural beauty of the area, we transformed the small space using wall-scale landscape photos, ambient and motion-activated nature sounds and a handful of digital interactives. We also developed a simple brand for the center to distinguish it from the rest of FBC’s preservation efforts and created a series of quick digital renderings to inspire potential donors.

Laying down custom-designed vinyl tracks on the Exploration Center floor.

Interactive Design & Development

The FBC Exploration Center features four interactive experiences, each selected to convey a subset of themes.

  1.  A large map-based touchtable tells the story of conservation through GIS data, photos, and aerial imagery, centered around three unique themes: Species & Habitat, Ecosystems & Land Use, and Conserving the Land We Love. It also shows the locations of the preserves, orients visitors to their location, and allows visitors to tap on areas of interest on the map to learn more about FBC-selected touchpoints.
  2. The Preserve Explorer allows visitors to browse through a visual index of FBC’s preserves, learn more about each, and text themselves directions to any preserve. It is powered by a simple content management system, allowing staff to update preserve information and add new conserved lands as they become open to the public.
  3. Custom-built “sound boxes” are discreetly embedded in the panorama-wrapped walls, featuring a species’ call or sound found in that location on the panorama. Each sound box is both ambient and proximity activated, playing its sound when a visitor gets within a certain distance of the box, and also activating the soundscape of the space at randomized intervals.
  4. A digital guestbook allows visitors to drop their pin on the map, enter their email address, and learn how to get involved with Frenchman Bay Conservancy. Entries are automatically linked to the Conservancy’s mailing list and an automated autoresponder campaign, immediately engaging future volunteers and prospective donors after their visit.
Prototyping the sound boxes.
Placing the massive touch table inside its custom-designed housing.
Laying out animal tracks.

Engaging a Younger Audience

To excite kids of all ages about visiting the preserves, we focused on activating as many of the senses as possible, placing kid-friendly content on the lower half of vertical panels, and maintaining a sense of exploration within the visitor’s center. A hands-on discovery corner was created to house a rotating display of touch specimens alongside species facts and flip-up identification cards. In addition to the hands-on area and sound boxes, animal tracks were placed on the floor of the space, acting as both a navigation guide for little feet and a learning prompt for instructors.

We envision these initial interventions as the first phase of a grander Wilderness Explorer theme that enriches the outdoor experiences of children and young adults by creating preserve-specific scavenger hunts, identification guides, and learning materials.