The National Aquarium Baltimore
There is no doubt that publicly funded institutions like museums, zoos and aquariums have benefited from their public Education programs. Exhibits are routinely designed to increase public accessibility by including subject experts and visitor interactivity (sometimes called entertainment) to inform and educate.
Recently, I experienced an example of this at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The Conductor spoke directly to the audience during the concert to offer a more personal experience through an understanding of its historic context. By engaging his audience he enhanced the visitor experience and increased the possibilities of greater subscription sponsorship.
Increasing public sponsorship and boosting private-sector fundraising revenue is why the Baltimore National Aquarium will “reposition itself to not only offer entertainment, but also to advocate for cleaner, healthier oceans” said CEO, John Racanelli, in an interview with Lorraine Mirabella from The Baltimore Sun.
“The ocean is a life-support system for all of us that live on the planet…”
The risks facing our oceans include overfishing, plastic debris, overabundance of carbon in the water, a loss of habitat, and fertilizers that feed organisms that consume oxygen in the water and create dead zones. Rather than shifting its focus from Education and Entertainment, The Baltimore National Aquarium is expanding its Education programs to include environmental advocacy.
What will be the effect of this change? Will it shift public focus away from concerns over species in captivity? After all, this has been a constant concern for years, one that all aquariums struggle with together with its visitors.
Will future public Aquarium Education programs that are designed to advocate for healthy ocean environments for us, in the end provide the safe aquatic environments much needed by its own living species including those exhibited in public aquariums?
Let me know what you think.