Your children have likely heard of the word “habitat” — but the new outdoor exhibit at the Fernbank Museum helps explain exactly what it is and its overarching importance.
The new exhibit — called simply “Habitat” — features giant sculptures of insects, animals, nests and flowers nestled among the real plants and animals that call the Wildwoods area of Fernbank home. The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 29.
Fernbank officials said thematic sections explore the central idea of “protecting habitats protects life” through the lens of the environment where it is displayed.
The elevated walkway that leads into WildWoods takes guests through a tour of the natural world. Set against the backdrop of a thriving forest found just minutes from the heart of downtown Atlanta, the new exhibit invites guests to travel “through” habitats and biomes found around the globe and explore the importance of preserving these natural communities through large-scale sculptures.
Those sculptures include a giant grasshopper, butterfly, praying mantis and dragonfly, as well as nests, flowers, honeycomb and more. The sculptures were commissioned by Fernbank in partnership with local artists.
“When most people hear the word habitat, they think of ‘nests’, ‘dens’ or ‘burrows,’ but – as this exhibit shows us – habitats are everywhere,” said Sarah Arnold, Fernbank’s director of education. “Everything we do impacts a habitat. Choices as small as choosing what plants to put in our yard can create an impact, and this exhibit helps us understand how to make beneficial choices.”
Habitats provide homes for all living things, from the tiniest ant to the tallest tree. Plants, animals and other organisms have adapted to each other and their habitats over time, creating a delicate ecological balance. This balance faces many threats, including pollution, deforestation and climate change, but Fernbank officials say humans can protect habitats for the future by learning to be better stewards of the environment.
The new exhibit invites visitors to learn more about topics related to habitats, their importance to life and what people can do to help preserve them. In total, there are nine thematic sections that make-up the exhibition, leading guests through Fernbank’s outdoor areas and on a unique nature expedition.
“My favorite part of this exhibit is the Sign of the Dragonfly section,” Arnold said. “Not only are the dragonfly sculptures beautiful, but they also help highlight an important ecological role — indicator species — which can help us determine how healthy a habitat is. It’s exciting to see this highlighted because it is an example of Fernbank’s own research of species and stream health in Fernbank Forest.”
Other “Habitat” highlights include:
♦ Larger-than-life nests, displaying massive eagle’s and oriole’s nests re-creations, as well as nests from other birds, including an owl hole and more. They are re-created by local Atlanta artist Laura Lewis.
♦ The Bug B&B, housing multiple larger-than-life insect sculptures such as a praying mantis, grasshopper and a caterpillar with chrysalis. Other smaller-scale sculptures include two bee sculptures and a butterfly-with-flower sculpture. These sculptures were created by Allen ♦ Peterson and Laura Lewis.
♦ Monarch and Meadows features magnificent monarch butterfly sculptures and two butterfly photo-ops with Georgia’s state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and a monarch butterfly.
♦ Life in the Balance, Biomes explores the plants, animals and other organisms that call four distinct biomes home: rainforest, desert, tundra and aquatic. Found near Fernbank’s Kendeda Pavilion, this section features intricate, delicately painted cut-outs of these biomes and the organisms that call them home.
The exhibit was developed by Smithsonian Gardens and made available by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibit is included with general admission and is free for Fernbank members.