An Exhibit on Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains State Park

Over fall break my family and I camped in the Porcupine Mountains State Park.  The park is located in Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   On a rainy Friday afternoon we explored the park’s visitor’s center.  The center included a small exhibit on the parks geological and historical background as well as the animals that are prevalent in the area.  The first display you see as you walk in is a quote defining the word wilderness “…where humans are visitors who do not remain”.  To me that quote is a very good hook into the exhibit, it made me want to see what else the exhibit said.

 

escarpment trail

My picture from my hike on the Overlook Trail

 

Geological and Historical Background

After the opening panel there are smaller panels, which describe how the main geological formations of the park were formed.  This information was useful because it helped to explain the parks unique landscape.  In white letters on a black panel with a picture of a volcano the panel describes how the volcano erupted and created the main escarpment ridge and how glaciers carved out the rest of the park.  There is also a panel on the creation and importance of copper in the region.  It discusses how copper-rich lava was pressurized by Lake Superior and solidified between rock fissures.  It also gave information on the different miners the area has had in the past.  Under the panel there is a sizable rocked infused with copper as an example of what was explained.  The next section has a display case of what miners in the area would have used such as; a lantern, washbasin and mining tools along with pictures.  As well as a small diorama of a logging site.  I found the information to be interesting and it helped me appreciate my surroundings more.

 

Union River

My picture of The Union River next to my cabin

Animals

Several animals are featured in the small exhibit.  As one might guess from the name of the park, one of the exhibits was, of course, the porcupine.  Other animals presented in the exhibit include, the fisher (a large weasel), ruffed grouse, northern goshawk, wolf, coyote, and bear.  The displays for each animal had life-sized dioramas with small informational name plaques underneath.  The wolf and the bear had additional parts.  For example, each had a skull and paw print as well as a small patch of fur you could touch so you could feel what each animal’s coat would feel like.  The bear display also had a video portion.  The video is clearly old and is in need of updating.  It features research and techniques that are most definitely not used today.  Such as tracking black bears in the region.  For example, to track the bears they placed big collars around their neck.  They also showed researchers drugging and collaring bears as well as taking tooth samples, which to be honest was just gross and slightly disturbing to watch.  It was not something I think young children should watch, it is not only outdated but also, as I said, inappropriate for that age range.  Besides the video, I found the displays on the animals to be informative.  Having a life-sized representation of the animal right in front of me gave a better understanding of the featured animal.

The Park

At the end of the exhibit there is a display that discusses the activities visitors can partake in at the park during different seasons.  In spring, for example, is the best time to see wildlife.  In the winter visitors can enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing. Summer is a good time for hiking and swimming, but be aware that is when the bugs are out and it can be miserable.  For that reason, my favorite time to camp in the park is fall when the area is bug free and full of beautiful fall colors.

Conclusion

The exhibit in the visitor’s center of the Porcupine Mountains State Park gives a nice overview of the history and wildlife of the area.  It also provides information on the park itself, which is extremely useful for any visitor.  The one complaint I have, is that it is slightly outdated with the bear video and the use of dioramas.  The research in the bear video is old, it should be updated to discuss what research is currently taking place within the park.  Also, as we discussed in class, dioramas are being phased out for newer and more accurate display methods; but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit.

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3 thoughts on “An Exhibit on Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains State Park

  1. Did you enjoy the way the exhibit presented information, or was it text heavy? It seems like they presented some visuals for attendants, but would you have preferred more? Was this exhibit one of the first things people usually look at when they get to the park? I wonder if it’s something that is meant to be looked at before walking around or after. It seems like exhibits at these kinds of parks might be difficult to draw people in when people can just explore the wildlife on their own. I wonder what techniques other wildlife parks do to give their audiences proper information on their surroundings. Nice post!

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  2. I am from Michigan and although I have never been to that specific place I have been to others similar. It is always interesting how these National Parks have displays where they attempt to reach the public and teach them about the place they are staying at. All of them are essentially the same type of exhibit with some differences. I think you do a great job at looking critically at the one at the Porcupine Mountains. I do think that these exhibits once they are completed they are not a major concern of park. Did you go see the exhibit on your first day or mainly because it was a rainy day? I feel like having this kind of facility gives people a place to get out of the rain. It can also be something else visitors can do and learn about the place they are at. The pictures you chose also do a wonderful job at showing how beautiful the U.P. can be. I enjoyed reading this post.

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  3. I really appreciated how creative it was to think of this type of exhibit. I have been to my fair share of national and state parks and seen their little exhibits but none of them crossed my mind in class until I read your blog post. I think a museum in the middle of the “wilderness,” as your quote described, is a bit ironic. Parks, wilderness, nature are all supposed to be far removed from the influences of people and the city and modern life. Museums, in most instances, are all about people and their culture and their influence, or their interaction with things. Its funny to see both combined and unsurprising that the results aren’t perfect. As I can recall, the state park exhibits I have seen have also been in need for a bit of updating. You don’t think museum when you hear state park. I think it is important for the resource of the museum to be available in an environment like this, however.

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