For the first time ever, Science North has made the foray outside of North America by leasing its Creatures of the Abyss travelling exhibit to The Hong Kong Science Museum. It's a step that ensures new business opportunities are on the horizon, Science North CEO Guy Labine said.
It is anticipated that almost 500,000 people will see the exhibit in three months, Julie Moskalyk, senior manager of International Sales at Science North, said. In the first 10 days of the exhibit being on display at the Hong Kong Science Centre, 20,000 people had already visited the depiction of the most inaccessible ecosystem on Earth – the deep ocean.
Since its premiere at Science North in May 2009, Creatures of the Abyss has been featured in six other science centres and museums in North America, Labine said. This opening in Hong Kong marks a very exciting prospect. The Hong Kong Science Museum is one of many attractions in Asia that has indicated an interest in working with Science North on future projects.
“We experienced a bit of a downturn with the sale of our external products, our travelling exhibits and our multimedia shows in 2008 during the recession,” Labine said. “This is an opportunity for us to broaden the market and to create other aspects that allow us to capitalize on the growth of science centres not only in North America, but throughout the whole world.”
This being the first time Science North has sent an travelling exhibit that far, there were a few logistical hoops to jump through, but it was mostly seamless, Labine said. The biggest challenges were getting the 6,000-square-foot exhibit shipped to Hong Kong in two sea containers, as well as having it translated and adapted to use on the museum's power grid.
“In North America, we tour our exhibits in French and English,” Labine said. “From a trade perspective, it was quite seamless to bring the exhibit to Hong Kong, and the potential in China is quite large with the number of science centres there.”
The Hong Kong Science Museum first opened in April 1991 and has proven itself to be an ideal and unique place for learning science. It's a huge science centre, Labine said, and there aren't many in North America that can equal its magnitude.
“The peak attendance in one day can go as high as 10,000 people,” he said. “At Science North, that can be as high as a few thousand people.”
Science North's exhibit sales and services division is key to the centre's success to attract a local northern Ontario audience in addition to the tourists who come in from all other destinations on a repeat basis, Labine said. What motivates people to come back time and again is the certainty in knowing Science North changes on a regular basis.
“Our travelling exhibits are key to that,” he said. “When our exhibits are set up in other science centres, we recoup the cost of those exhibits by renting them out. All science centres have the same goal: to keep things fresh for visitors. It's a good business decision for us, but more importantly, it's a way to present great science to our visitors on an ongoing basis.”
The division was created in 1996 to sell the award-winning exhibitions and multimedia theatres that are created by Science North’s staff scientists and in-house production teams. Profits from these initiatives are directed back into exhibit development and renewal.
The travelling exhibit business came into effect in 2002, and Science North was “behind the pack,” Labine said. “I think we've caught up now, and we're actually one of Canada's largest exporters of travelling exhibits. (Expanding into Asia) is an important step in the growth of this business for Science North.”
Exhibits are set up by technicians like Don Greco, who spends about 70 per cent of his time on the road. He was in Hong Kong to set up the Creatures of the Abyss exhibit.
It took about three weeks to set up the exhibit, and the Science North team worked hand in hand with their counterparts from Hong Kong – only one of whom spoke English. The language barrier wasn't the only hurdle that Science North techs had to overcome.
“There was very limited access to supplies,” Greco said. “Paint rollers are unheard of, and there are no big box stores. We're pretty excited to tap into this market, and I think we're doing a good job.”
Posted by Arron Pickard