Excetive Summary


        Climate change is one of the most important and urgent modern global issues. As concern for environmental damage grows around the world, many countries are trying to further their understanding of climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists use ice core samples to study past climates and predict future effects of atmospheric changes. New Zealand undertakes world-class ice core research and has drilled and studied Antarctic ice cores.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa wants to help create a net carbon-zero future for New Zealand by educating its visitors on climate change. With this intention, the museum launched the Natural History Renewal Project to update their exhibitions to contain more content related to climate change. This renewal project aims to inspire visitors to think critically about threats to New Zealand’s natural environment and to provide them with a forum to discuss ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. An exhibition within this renewal will highlight ice cores and their role in environmental research. Te Papa is determined to make this exhibition resonate with visitors by providing them with an opportunity for interactive learning. Developing this interactive museum exhibition requires an extensive and organized design the process to allow for efficient progress towards a finished product.


The purpose of this project was to aid the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in communicating to its visitors the importance of ice core research as evidence for climate change by designing, prototyping, and testing an interactive component of an exhibition. To achieve this goal, our team completed the following three objectives: (I) assess Te Papa’s progress on the renewal project and understand pertinent information to inform the exhibition design, (II) develop designs for an interactive component of an ice core exhibition based on our research and Te Papa’s specifications, (III) perform iterative prototyping to evaluate and improve the functionality and visitor experience of our most promising design.

Objective I: Site Assessment
Our team needed to understand the museum’s parameters for the ice core interactive, the current stage of the renewal project, necessary information concerning ice core research, and visitor interactions with exhibitions at Te Papa. We collected this data through discussions with the museum’s renewal team, reviewing documentation of the renewal project, meeting with an expert in ice core research, and observing visitors on the museum floor.

Initial meetings with the renewal team, along with document review, informed our team on the goals and specifications for the overall renewal project and the ice core exhibition. We analyzed this information to create an updated plan of action for our design process. In order to understand the level of interaction between visitors and current exhibitions, we observed visitors at the museum. The information we gathered through these observations helped our team understand what types of exhibitions were popular and which aspects of an interactive exhibition are important.

Our team, along with two members of the renewal team, visited the New Zealand Ice Core Research Facility to better understand ice cores and see one in person. We met with a leading ice core research scientist, Dr. Nancy Bertler, who presented information about her team’s work in Antarctica, supplementing our background knowledge of ice core research. After reviewing themes of this gathered information, we found that a timeline displaying carbon dioxide levels over time would be an important part of the ice core exhibition.

Objective 2: Interactive Design Development
Based on the results of our site assessment, our team generated and refined design ideas for the ice core interactive. We conducted two rounds of brainstorming and evaluated the resulting designs, seeking feedback from the renewal team and an ice core expert for further refinement.
Our team held brainstorming sessions to generate preliminary designs. After individual brainstorming, our team convened to discuss our ideas. This method was consistent with Crawford’s Slip Writing Approach and allowed each group member to discuss his or her individual ideas. After presenting these concepts, we conducted a front-end evaluation, an established refinement method from the Worcester EcoTarium, to find common themes, strengths, and weaknesses in each design.
We organized discussions with members of the renewal team to present, assess, and review the results of our brainstorming. Throughout the rest of the design refinement stage, we sought and analyzed feedback to inform our future work. We cross-referenced each of our designs with the goals of the exhibition components that were outlined by the renewal team. Consolidating this information allowed our team to decide on a design concept to prototype and test with museum visitors. This design consisted of an ice core model with a slider mechanism that was linked to a carbon dioxide timeline. The two versions of the refined design that our team produced include a 10-centimeter representation of an ice core and an enlarged representation with a tunnel for children to crawl through.

Objective 3: Iterative Prototyping
We created prototypes of our refined design and evaluated each versions’ effectiveness in conveying our intended messages through testing with visitors. The main messages we wanted visitors to gain from our prototype were that the carbon dioxide concentration level was relatively steady for thousands of years but has increased at an alarming rate in the last 200 years and that ice cores play an important role in gathering data to understand climate change. We used feedback from visitor testing to iteratively improve our designs.

We sought to determine whether the designs successfully conveyed the intended messages. We focused on paper prototyping, time and cost-effective method to create and test multiple hand-sketched examples. In the first iteration, as seen in Iteration 1 Prototype, we used paper and cardboard to create a physical prototype to represent the timeline, ice core, and slider. We tested in Nature Space, a social learning space within the current Mountains to Sea exhibition. We set up our prototype with three team members assuming roles as a facilitator (asks the visitor questions), operator (operates the prototype), or observer (takes notes). We engaged with visitors as they passed by our Iteration 1 Prototype prototype, inviting them to help us test the potential new exhibition. We asked visitors questions regarding their impressions, the appeal of the design versions, the messages they took from our prototype, and whether they had any suggestions to improve our design. Based on the feedback we received from visitors, our team made updates and repeated testing with a refined prototype. In this second iteration, as seen in Iteration 2 Prototype, our team focused on updating the ice core model to be more closely representative of what visitors would experience in the final exhibition. We achieved this by shortening the time represented on the interactive timeline to reflect a more relatable time frame and by displaying the interactive portion of the timeline digitally. Feedback from our second iteration allowed our team to further refine our design and make well-informed recommendations to Te Papa. The analysis of the results from testing Iteration 2 provided our team with opinions and suggestions from visitors as well as a proof of concept for the digital timeline interactive. This more refined version of our prototype allowed us to better gauge the visitor experience because it required less guidance from the Iteration 2 Prototype facilitator and made visitor interaction more representative of a real exhibition.


Iteration 1 Prototype                                                                                            Iteration 2 Prototype
Recommendations and Conclusion:
        This project aimed to aid Te Papa in communicating the importance of ice core data as evidence for climate change. Our team’s goal was to develop an interactive exhibition that successfully conveyed this message. Based on the information we gained throughout this project and the results of testing prototypes with museum visitors, our team created a set of recommendations for Te Papa to consider for their final exhibition. Along with our final design, these recommendations serve as a culmination of our work for the museum to use as a basis for the next stage of the renewal project.
● Incorporate a tunnel into the exhibition to target younger audiences
● Use a sliding mechanism and viewport linked to a timeline
● Emphasize ice core visual aspects with a revealing factor
● Have a static and interactive portion of the timeline
● Link the timeline and layers linearly
● Present additional information regarding the ice core extraction process
● Maintain a positive tone that highlights ice cores and their purpose
Final Design SketchUp Model

Through assessment, design, and prototyping, our recommendations serve as the basis for a final design, shown in the Final Design SketchUp Model, for an ice core interactive at Te Papa. In our final design, the interactive portion of the carbon dioxide timeline is linked to the position of the slider on the exaggerated ice core tunnel. The ‘Interactive Audio-Visual Timeline Events’ on the timeline would explain the event and encourage visitors to examine a corresponding visual within the ice core model. Younger audiences could examine the ice core model from inside the tunnel. External to this interactive would be a continuation of the carbon dioxide timeline with other timeline events. The ‘Secondary Audio Visual Display’ would convey other contextual information on ice core research and the ‘Realistic Ice Core Model’ would give visitors a sense of what an actual ice core looks like. Our project focused primarily on the development of the interactive timeline and ice core tunnel portion of the renewal project.