The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recently recognized the National Aquarium’s Living Seashore exhibit for outstanding design during AZA’s annual Honors and Awards program. Living Seashore earned Top Honors, AZA’s highest award for exhibit innovation and guest engagement. This designation, given to only two institutions this year, is reserved for those that successfully educate and inspire visitors through unique design and interactive experiences.
“Living Seashore creates connections between guests and the hidden, abundant sealife of the Mid-Atlantic seashore,” said John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium. “Through fun and engaging experiences, they come away excited about becoming beach heroes themselves.”
With its annual award, AZA recognizes an AZA-accredited institution or related facility member for their excellence in exhibit design and providing visitors with the opportunity to engage in observing and learning about animals. The organization presented the two Top Honors, to the Aquarium for the Living Seashore exhibit and to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for their Penguin Coast exhibit, at their Annual Conference in San Diego on September 10.
“As the highest honor for new exhibits, this award recognizes the National Aquarium’s innovation and commitment in designing a dynamic, immersive habitat that provides the best in animal care and public education to help connect people with nature,” said Keith Winsten, director of the Brevard Zoo and chair of AZA’s Honors and Awards Committee.
Living Seashore, which has welcomed more than one million guests since opening in May 2015, celebrates the natural wonders of the mid-Atlantic’s coastal ecosystem. The exhibit’s touchpools contain more than 5,000 gallons of salt water and are teeming with aquatic life, including Atlantic stingrays, horseshoe crabs and moon jellies. The exhibit also features a replicated sandy dune and a digital multi-touch table where guests can learn more about objects that wash up on the beach and animals that live along the seashore. As they explore Living Seashore, guests uncover the many hidden treasures of the Atlantic shore, leaving with a new appreciation for the unique habitat the exhibit re-creates. Aquarium experts and educational interpreters are stationed throughout the exhibit to help guests safely interact with the animals and teach them about proper conservation behaviors.