Gorilla conservation: visitor education

    Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Rwanda -

    The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda wanted a high-tech interactive educational experience to be installed in the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on The Ellen DeGeneres Campus to teach visitors about Dian Fossey and gorilla conservation.

  • Gorilla conservation: visitor education

    MASS Design Group, an international architecture and design firm, brought formula D_ on board the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's multi-million dollar conservation investment in Rwanda, named The Ellen DeGeneres Campus, which comprises a conservation hub, educational facilities, and a tourism experience. The group specifically required formula D_'s expertise in setting up large-scale visitor exhibitions that are eye-catching, appealing, and interactive.

    formula D_'s role was to interpret, engineer, build, and install various projects designed by MASS Design Group for the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery on the campus. The gallery is the campus's visitor centre and it was built specifically to educate tourists about gorilla research, gorilla conservation, and Dian Fossey's history and story. formula D_’s work included designing and printing multilingual wall and display graphics and banners, as well as custom-made physical interactive objects, and setting up various audiovisual systems around the gallery, including displaying a video message in which Ellen DeGeneres welcomes visitors to the centre; installing a projection system inside the recreation of Dian Fossey's research cabin that was a reconstruction of the projection system Dian herself used; and installing interactive elements, such as a gorilla-movement map.

    Work on the project included designing and building various physical structures and large-scale display areas for both analogue presentations and interactive and digital elements in the exhibition space, while working to a brief of ensuring that all the pieces were both high end and self-sustainable. There were also project-specific challenges, such as matching timber finishes specified by the architects as the exhibition space used wood as a
    visual and tactile aesthetic to reinforce the conservation priorities of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. formula D_ had to interpret, engineer, and build the custom display pieces as envisioned by the architects and solve the logistics of installing all the elements remotely.

    These exhibition pieces include informational and photographic plinths; a structure that displays Dian Fossey's story in a timeline and houses original artefacts, such as some of her personal belongings; a gorilla "hall of fame" comprising wall banners that highlight seven of Rwanda's most famous gorillas, which is augmented with both physical artefacts that needed to be displayed in an attractive manner and an interactive tablet quiz designed by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and set up and installed by formula D_; and a call-to-action wall at the end of the gallery that houses interactive elements that encourage visitors to be active participants in gorilla conservation.

    formula D_ also designed and set up the display structure and audiovisual components for a "gorilla chat" station, comprising a large display screen, a touchscreen, and speakers, in which visitors can learn to speak like a gorilla by listening to various vocalisations and trying to imitate what they hear. Finally, formula_D engineered, built, and installed a large science-table exhibit area with multiple stations. The exhibit comprises a mix of physical objects and audiovisual components in different zones, all set up by formula D_, including the design and print work for all the graphics, that visitors can interact with in order to learn more about some of the scientific research that the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund conducts.