There’s no doubt that the forest industry is a big deal in the province, supporting approximately 140,000 jobs and generating about $4 billion in revenues annually. Yet there is much public ambiguity about what the sector entails.
“When you tell people you’re a forester, they’ll say, ‘Oh, do you plant trees or do
you cut them down?’” says Kindry Mercer, manager of regional initiatives at Western Forest Service. “That is the interface people have with this industry. There’s really not a lot of places where the public can go to learn about what goes on in modern forest resource management. It is a really complex industry, and there are a lot of different values in it. It’s challenging to get that across.”
To address this issue, stakeholders in the coastal forest industry — including companies such as Western Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management and the Truck Loggers Association, along with Khowutzun Development Corporation and various government agencies — collaborated with the British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre (BCFDC) to create a new exhibit telling the story of modern forestry innovation. They engaged Karen Sorensen, principal and director of storytelling and brand environments at ReMark Brand Environments, early in the strategic planning process to guide the group from the beginning phase of fundraising through the final design, implementation and public launch.
A modern story
Sorensen describes designing public engagement and storytelling environments
as her passion. Her career highlights include Science World, Royal Tyrrell Museum, The Deeley Exhibition at the oldest Harley Davidson dealership in Vancouver, Beaty Biodiversity Museum and several large corporate brand initiatives.
“Forests Forever is special for me as 6 it is located on the Island and supports a local renewable industry,” she says. “We needed to differentiate [Forests Forever] from the BCFDC, which traditionally has been all about the history of forestry in B.C. We needed a clear definition that this is the story of modern forestry, and we needed a way to connect that modern story back to the past.”
The various stakeholders created a content committee and their input and research generated the Forests Forever’s “storyline,” which is comprised of eight distinct sections that visitors flow through, starting with the Living Forest and ending with a “train trip back in time.”
A major challenge was creating an experience that appealed to the projected range of visitors, from grade five students and forestry workers to international ambassadors.
“Throughout the whole exhibit, we have a game app, which visitors can download or there are tablets that can be borrowed,” Sorensen says. “As you go through the different sections, there’s questions and then when you get outside, there’s some gamification and you get a prize at the end if you do it all. The app can be customized to the audience.”
Visitors follow the life cycle of a commercial tree, from seedling to finished product, and participate in the forestry process by identifying tree species, measuring the forests with lasers, simulating harvesting techniques and learning how to mitigate climate change.
“One of the key messages of the exhibit is sustainability and value-added wood products,” Sorensen says. “In 2019 I presented to an international delegation of 75 ambassadors and challenged the group to count how many wood products they use every day, from the linoleum floor they were standing on and the wood fibre fabrics they were wearing to the tissues they used to combat cold season. This fun exercise illustrated the important point that forest products truly are everywhere, and we all need forests forever through sustainable forest management.”
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