Congressman Jim McGovern Announces $148,586 Federal Institute for Museum and Library Services Grant To Hitchcock Center for “Learning from Nature” Exhibit Design


By Julie Johnson

On June 29, 2016, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) visited the Hitchcock Center’s new living building site and announced an exciting federal grant award to the Hitchcock Center from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Hitchcock Center has been awarded a $148,586 IMLS grant for its innovative “Learning From Nature” exhibit design plan that will capture the interpretive potential of its artifacts and objects, its outdoor spaces, and built environment as portals into knowledge, feelings, and actions. View a video of this event.

The Center’s “Learning From Nature” exhibit plan brings together a unique collaboration between Matt Kirchman of ObjectIDEA, designLAB architects and the environmental educators of the Hitchcock Center.

Learning from Nature” Exhibit Design Framework

The “Learning from Nature” exhibit design plan aims to render complex ecological concepts “alive” in simple, meaningful and memorable ways through interpretive and interactive displays centered on the following pedagogical framework: nature runs on sunlight, nature banks on diversity, nature demands local expertise, nature fits form to function, nature recycles everything, and nature uses only the energy it needs.

Visitors will be greeted with these principles immediately upon entering the building and will be encouraged to look, see, and learn how these principles have been put into action throughout the building and site.


Interpretive Building System Exhibits

Four major building systems exhibits will interpret how the Center’s new living building will model and mimic nature through ecological design and biomimicry.

Artist Rendering of the Connecticut River Watershed

watershed mapDuring Congressman McGovern’s visit, a special preview of an art installation central to the exhibit plan was on display. Created to help reinforce “connection to place,” an artistic rendering of a regional section of the Connecticut River Watershed will be stained on the concrete floor of the Center’s “ecotone” by Tom Schulz of EnnisArt. Here visitors will gain a macro view of their place in the watershed while learning how the Center’s new building acts like a watershed in the design of its net zero water system.

This artistic rendering will use concrete colors made by PROSOCO manufactured to be compliant with the Living Building Challenge™ (LBC), a rigorous green building certification the Hitchcock Center is pursuing. PROSOCO is one of a growing number of businesses that are joining the “transparency movement” through LBC’s Declare label, a stringent materials labeling program aimed at eliminating toxic ingredients in building materials. All materials used in the Hitchcock Center’s new building will be nontoxic.

Matching Grant Requirements

The IMLS requires a dollar for dollar match to secure the full $146,586 IMLS award. The Hitchcock Center plans to secure this match through gifts and pledges from individuals and businesses throughout the community. The goal is to raise this match by October 2016.

About IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

About the Hitchcock Center

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment is constructing a new 9,000 square foot environmental education center on Hampshire College land that it has secured through a 95-year ground lease.

By taking the Living Building Challenge™, the most rigorous standard for green building in the world, the Center aims to be the first “living” net zero energy, water and waste environmental education center in New England.

Currently serving over 8,000 children, youth and adults each year, 30% of whom are from low-income households, the Hitchcock Center will open its doors to this revolutionary new building this fall 2016. Their program plans call for 40% more program participants, 45% of whom will be low-income, 250% more visitors, and a 50% increase in public hours.

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