San Cristobal Interpretation Center

Review

of an Exhibition

by Devora Liss

Published on October 28, 2015, Modified on November 08, 2015

  • Description:

    I had been in the Galapagos for eight days. I’d seen the islands, the wildlife, swam with sea lions, viewed albatrosses mating, and seen more lizards than I could count. The interpretation center was the last stop before heading back to the mainland.

    For what appeared to be a small building, the exhibit was extremely comprehensive and multi-faceted. It covered the basic geography and geology of the archipelago, the history of its settlement, including some juicy historical anecdotes.

    Galapagos, From Now On
    The latter part of the exhibition turns to the future, specifically from an environmental perspective. Large panels in a well-lit room focus on different aspects: food, energy, waste. The panels are replete with detailed information, including friendly infographics. Each panels poses a problem and a number of solutions. This section is bi-lingual, making the message accessible to the largely non Spanish-speaking tourists.

    I enjoyed this section for a number of reasons. First, tourists to the Galapagos cannot help but be impressed by the pristine nature, often endemic to each island. By showcasing the problems the islands face, tourists are reminded that these are dynamic sites, and that the presence of the very people who make their trip possible (boat crews, scuba guides, tour operators, and their families and communities) has an tangible impact.

    Second, I believe that environmental issues should be presented to the public through a pragmatic lens. Otherwise, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and/or insignificant and stop caring altogether.

    Lastly, the scope of scientific data is much wider than any one person’s experience. Data enables people to recognize patterns and impacts that might not be evident in their daily lives. Similar to the aerial photos featured, which compare the Galapagos cities today with the past, solid data gives visitors the bigger picture.

    A Natural Laboratory
    One more element caught my eye – one of the few interactives. Although quite simple, its task was complex: show the evolutionary steps leading to the Galapagos wildlife as we know it today. Each row addressed one animal. On the far right was an image of the animal on the mainland, and to the left, a related animal in the Galapagos. (It was unclear why they didn’t do left to right, as the timeline would be drawn). Each image had bi-lingual information about the animal’s physiology and behavior. In the middle, a rotating cube showed four interim animals, sketches showing the gradual changes to the animal’s physiology. It was unclear whether these sketches were based in the fossil evidence. Yet just as Darwin predicted the existence of certain birds based on the shape and size of flowers, these steps most likely resemble historical changes.

    I highly recommend a visit to the Interpretation Center, as part of any Galapagos trip. It will provide context for your visit, including the impact of your being there. While the main attraction for children may be the colorful images on the large panels (which may be used to facilitate discussion), most tourists are adults, and this museum provides myriad information about the archipelago, their past, and their future.

    ps – I apologize for the low-quality photos. My camera was quite sick…

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