Archive for March, 2011

Eden – a new way of communicating

Monday, March 7th, 2011

The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall, UK. Its purpose is to demonstrate the importance of plants to people and to promote sustainable use of plant resources. It is esablished in a former clay quarry, and it is good example of a brownfield development for tourism. Eden has restored the landscape and built two indoor biomes under large geodesic structures. It contains a five acre rainforest and a one acre warm temperate biome. The structures are spectacular, and that is a key element in the storytelling. The story is told about the economic use plants. Nature and plants are also included in pieces of contemporary works of art. Eden has developed a wide educational program at all levels that enhances the experiences and ensures a combination of entertainment and education. It has also built up a science program with partnerships abroad. The Project is not a conventional botanic garden, but rather a showcase for economic botany and ethnobotany. The attraction opened in 2001, and received two million visitors during its first year of operation.

Since 2001 the attraction has added many elements to the range of experiences. In his research article John Blevitt (2004) explains the elements in the communication strategy that has emerged and how the communication is a key issue in the comprehensive innovation of the the project. He concludes: “…Eden is certainly a kaleidoscope of constantly evolving, constantly developing images, voices, stories, performances, smells, emotions, thoughts, transactions and activities. Its own story and core message offers an overall framework for visitor interpretation.” (p 186).  Blevitt addresses the controversies of the development, particularly related to the discussion of agricultural methods: ”….. there are tensions, recognised inconsistencies and apparent contradictions. It can be argued the failure to condemn GM rather than simply acknowledge the unresolved issues is incompatible with its support for sustainable and certainly organic agriculture but in July 2004 the Project announced it would celebrate national organic week by hosting a series of events and activities with the Soil Association. This reinforces the idea of Eden as an enabler, a facilitator, an educator and a forum for discussion. If Eden’s core message articulates a notion of human dependency on plant life then its advocacy of environmental sustainability takes a form that is sometimes both complex and complicated. It is both the medium and the message. Peel off the outer layer and there is a world of contested facts, values and opinions that Eden attempts to influence by becoming a character in the wider story of lifelong learning and sustainability.” (p 186).

 

Blevitt, J (2004) The Eden Project – making a connection, Museum and Society, 2, 3, 175-189. http://www.le.ac.uk/museumstudies/m&s/Issue%206/Blewitt.pdf