Q&A with Ashley Larose, Senior Manager, International Sales at Science North
With the touring department a key part of Science North’s work since the late 90s, we found out what makes this science centre’s touring shows so popular.
TEN: How long has the touring department been a key part of Science North’s work?
Ashley Larose: Since 1996.
TEN: What have been some of the most significant exhibitions so far?
AL: Since 2002 we have produced ten high-quality, award-winning and robust traveling exhibits available for lease. Our exhibits have a proven market appeal that increases attendance for our clients. Our traveling exhibits range in size from 1,000 sq.ft. – 6,000 sq.ft, and include:
- Arctic Voices
- The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!TM
- Wildlife Rescue
- Creatures of the Abyss
- WaterWorks: Soak up the Science
- Ends of the Earth: from Polar Bears to Penguins
- Arctic Adventure
- The Climate Change Show
- Discovering Chimpanzees: the Remarkable World of Jane Goodall
Two of our most significant travelling exhibitions have been Discovering Chimpanzees: The Remarkable World of Jane Goodall exhibit, and The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or NotTM.
Watch a video about the Arctic Voices exhibition here:
TEN: What kind of institutions are interested in displaying Science North exhibitions, and why?
AL: Our travelling exhibitions are most often leased by other science centres or science museums. Science North is proud of our 50% repeat lease rate, which is among the highest in the industry. Over 6 million visitors in over 54 venues around the world have experienced our exhibitions.
Science North is proud of our 50% repeat lease rate, which is among the highest in the industry. Over 6 million visitors in over 54 venues around the world have experienced our exhibitions.
TEN: What sets Science North apart from other science organizations or museums?
AL: Our team truly believes in providing visitor experiences that are, at the same time, entertaining, engaging and educational. From a client perspective, we provide meaningful visitor experiences with two goals in mind: visitor impact and ease of operation. As operators of our own major attractions we understand the need to balance showmanship with operational simplicity.
Providing venues with high quality, award-winning and robust traveling exhibits is what we love to do. Our traveling exhibits have proven market appeal and with a range of sizes, content themes, and modular designs, we can accommodate many sizes of venues and provide visitors with an experience that will ‘wow’ them.
All Science North traveling exhibits are fully complimented by comprehensive Marketing, Education and Operational Guides, to ease the demands of hosting.
TEN: What does a typical day in your job look like and involve?
AL: Most people who work at Science North will chuckle when asked this question. There really is no typical day when you work in a science centre! Just like every one of our visitors is different, so to are our days. My days can be structured with meetings, phone calls and office work or they can take place across the world visiting with clients may be interested in an exhibition or multimedia show. The team at Science North is exceptionally passionate and this passion comes through on a daily basis whether in a brainstorming session for a new exhibition or working with our clients to ensure our exhibition will open on time in their venue.
Watch a video about the Wildlife Rescue exhibition here:
TEN: What do you enjoy most about working with traveling exhibitions?
AL: I have to say that the best part of working in this industry is the people I get to work with, both at Science North and around the world. This industry is filled with talented, creative people who are passionate about visitor experiences and science education. We are all working to engage visitors in new ways and are continuously learning from one another. It gives our team great satisfaction to hear that our exhibitions have helped our clients achieve their goals!
I have to say that the best part of working in this industry is the people I get to work with, both at Science North and around the world. This industry is filled with talented, creative people who are passionate about visitor experiences and science education.
TEN: Can you explain in a little bit of detail about how Science North approaches touring exhibitions – deciding which ones to tour for example, and selling these to other institutions?
AL: As the operators of a science centre and also travelling exhibition providers, we must ensure that our exhibitions meet the needs of both our visitors and our clients. Each time Science North undertakes development of a new travelling exhibition, we complete a significant amount of analysis to help us decide on the topic. We extensively survey our visitors and our clients and allow the results of these surveys to inform our decisions with respect to the topic of the exhibition and the visitor experiences contained within. Our business model dictates that we release a new exhibition approximately every two years for two primary reasons: 1) to ensure a renewed visitor experience at Science North and 2) to ensure we are providing new available experiences for our clients.
TEN: Is there an overarching aim or set of aims, when Science North sends its exhibitions to other places?
AL: Our aim is always to provide our visitors and our clients’ visitors with inspirational, educational and entertaining visitor experiences.
Watch a video about The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibition here:
TEN: What kind of challenges arise when you’re sending something Science North has produced somewhere else?
AL: As with any industry, there can always be logistical challenges such as delays with trucking, etc. Our team strives to provide exceptional customer service and will work with our suppliers to minimize the impacts on our clients.
Working with overseas clients, such as our clients in Asia, also provides an additional layer of complexity. Differences in language, customs laws, electrical requirements and overseas shipping can create particular challenges for our team. With every new project we learn something new that we can translate to our next endeavor!
TEN: Does Science North have particular partnerships with other science institutions or centres?
AL: Our organization is always looking to collaborate with a variety of partners; whether they are science, entertainment and technology-based. For example: we have recently undertaken the development of an multimedia theatre with Experimentarium, a science centre in Denmark; our travelling exhibition The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or NotTM was a partnership between Science North and Ripley Entertainment; Arctic Voices, our tenth travelling exhibition, was co-produced with the Canadian Museum of Nature; and our latest project, a blockbuster travelling exhibition exploring extreme weather will include the Ontario Science Centre as a partner.
TEN: In your opinion, why is a travelling exhibitions or sales department so important to a museum like Science North?
AL: The Science North International Sales department allows us to retain tremendously creative staff, which in turn allows us to develop amazing visitor experiences for both our visitors and our clients. It also generates a profit for the organization that is then directed toward renewing visitor experiences within our science centre.
I think engaging the public in meaningful, accurate and relevant science is more critical than ever; and science centres and exhibition producers certainly have an important role to play in this. Not only can exhibits educate visitors, but they also provide opportunities for social learning and the deepening of understanding.
TEN: In your career, have you noticed any big changes or developments when it comes to touring exhibitions and how they’re produced and shared?
AL: There has certainly been an increase in the amount of inventory that is available for clients to choose from; resulting in increased competition for exhibition producers. This can likely be attributed to the increase in for-profit, or private developers entering and/or increasing their profile the industry.
The industry has also seen an increase in exhibition developers successfully partnering with recognizable IP owners; such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Science North has participated in this trend through our very successful partnership with Ripley Entertainment to co-produce The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or NotTM.
TEN: Do you think sharing scientific knowledge, and engaging the wider public with science, has also become more of a priority?
AL: In these days of ubiquitous technology, information is much more easily available and widely disseminated. This is both a benefit and a hindrance as the average citizen can engage with science at-will, but the accuracy of such science is not always guaranteed. For this reason, I think engaging the public in meaningful, accurate and relevant science is more critical than ever; and science centres and exhibition producers certainly have an important role to play in this. Not only can exhibits educate visitors, but they also provide opportunities for social learning and the deepening of understanding.