Grand Rapids Public Museum announces new climate change exhibit

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“Under the Arctic” addresses the subject of climate change through the lens of a thawing Arctic environment. The exhibit features interactive components, including a 30-foot-long Alaskan permafrost tunnel replica, fossil research stations and interactive games. Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum will host a new exhibition, “Under the Arctic: Digging into the Permafrost,” beginning Sept. 26.

“Under the Arctic” addresses the subject of climate change through the lens of a thawing Arctic environment. The exhibit features interactive components, including a 30-foot-long Alaskan permafrost tunnel replica, fossil research stations and interactive games.

“‘Under the Arctic’ provides an educational and engaging space for all ages to learn more about climate change research, how it affects the environment and what people can do to help preserve the planet’s health,” said Kate Kocienski, GRPM vice president of marketing and PR. “We look forward to adding this exhibit to the museum experience, included with the cost of general admission.”

“Under the Arctic” is a collaborative effort between the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) that transports visitors to the Arctic using the sights and smells of the nation’s only permafrost research tunnel. Visitors step into the boots of climate science researchers to explore real Ice Age fossils, ancient ice cores and engineering challenges posed by thawing permafrost.

“Climate change can be hard to wrap your head around. For a lot of people who do not experience its effects, it feels abstract or distant — like something in the future,” said Allyson Woodard, an exhibit developer with OMSI. “This exhibit is an opportunity to make the impacts of climate change tangible — you can see it, touch it and even smell it.”

This exhibit strives to educate visitors about permafrost’s characteristics and its greater implications. Permafrost is soil that has been frozen for at least two years, and it traps an enormous amount of carbon dioxide. As it thaws, carbon is released into the atmosphere, which in turn has repercussions for the planet.

“We all know about melting ice caps and rising seas, but I don’t think it’s widely known that permafrost is thawing and releasing these carbon emissions,” said Catherine Diaz, business development manager at OMSI. “It’s having a big impact, and it’s not really something that’s talked about.”

“Under the Arctic” will be located on the second floor of the GRPM and is free with general admission. The exhibit will be on display through spring 2021. All hands-on components of the exhibition will be under a rigorous cleaning schedule, given the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about “Under the Arctic”, visit grpm.org/arctic.

The GRPM is open and welcoming visitors to explore the three floors of core exhibitions, along with “Bodies Revealed” — extended through Sept. 27. Because of the limited capacity, advance ticketing is required. For additional details about the updated GRPM visitor experience, visit grpm.org.

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