telling local science stories

For this project I was tasked with creating an exhibition centered around the city of Philadelphia. I chose to dive into the local natural history, developing and designing an exhibition that took visitors on a journey through millions of years of environmental change to explore what the region's past can tell us about our current climate crisis.

floor plan

big idea

The Philadelphia region was shaped by millions of years of constant natural change that humans have dangerously disrupted.


  • University students

  • Philadelphia families

goals (visitors will...)

  • Understand that Philadelphia’s environment has been continuously changing for billions of years

  • See the rate of environmental change shift over time from steady to a staggering increasing

  • Have their eyes opened to the natural history all around them

fossils in context

Fossils are displayed in ways that help visitors understand what they can tell us about the past...


Displaying numerous fossils in a graphic diagram activates them as a larger view of the entire ecosystem

A mix of fossils and life- like models provides a balance of compelling authenticity and informative realism


The "sketch" style of the infographic aims to make the complex data it depicts less intimidating

navigating time & change

An infographic that runs throughout the exhibition acts as familiar and visible sign of global temperature change over time — but surprises visitors as the drastic impact of humans appears

"Today, we've moved out of this Ice Age. The Earth started getting warmer around 20,000 years ago, creating the climate we now live in. 

The natural trend of cooling and warming should continue... but it's not."

Telling the story

Narrative captions accompany large central images to provide an imaginative, story-driven approach to learning about the past, ideal for young visitors

"The saber-toothed cat pounces. The young mastodon stumbles forward. They fall into a murky pool.


With one wrong step this could become his final meal."

Planning the exhibition

experience map

interpretive matrix sample

construction documentation

inset wall case

scenic rock wall

digital interactive kiosk

casework schedule

© 2020 Abigail Sarver-Verhey