Philadelphia would not exist without the Delaware River. The River provides us with water and connects our city to the rest of the world. The Independence Seaport Museum (ISM) tells the story of the Delaware River through history and by examining the organisms that use the river as their habitat.
River Alive! is the brand new 4000 sq foot multimedia exhibit at ISM and opens to the public this weekend. “River Alive! is intended to be an overview of the entire watershed,” said John Brady President and CEO of Independence Seaport Museum. The Museum worked with Habitheque Inc. which helps plan and design unique learning spaces like River Alive!
River Alive! is made up of 17 interactive, hands on components along with aquatic field stations. Six different artists were commissioned to have their works be part of this exhibition that combines art, science, and play in one bright space just steps from the Delaware River
The main feature of River Alive! is the 32-foot long interactive projection screen titled the “River Continuum Wall.” “The rules of how we do exhibits from here on out is that there has to be a centerpiece in each exhibit that stops a kid in their tracks,” Brady said.
Visitors can trigger digital animations on the wall from five “input stations” by spinning cylindrical and spherical components. The motions create reactions showing how the mountains, wilderness, farmland, cities and coastal plains are all connected via the Delaware River watershed. “This is showing the flow of water from the highest points to the lowest points,” said Prizzia founded Habitheque and was a key consultant for River Alive! “River Alive! is really about how we have a living system.”
The exhibit also features a “Watershed Story Space” where visitors can sit and watch a video comprised of picturesque scenes of the Delaware watershed set to a reading of a river inspired poem written by local playwright James Ijames. The “Watershed 3D Modeling Table” allows visitors to shape the flow of water with blocks that fit together. The 10-foot flowing water table visualizes how permeable and non-permeable surfaces can create waterways and dams.
Artist Lexy Ho Tai created vibrant river character costumes for young visitors to wear as they imagine what it’s like to be an animal near or in the river. Kids can choose three river paths for their story, and trigger sounds like water flowing, rain, and animals.
The Citizen Science Lab connects young people to the Delaware River, and even has a door providing direct access to the river. Older kids and students have the chance to use scientific equipment to examine the tiniest residents of the river. The key theme of this exhibit is that everything that relies on the watershed, plays a role in the health and survival of the land and water.
“We’re showing how diversity is key to a healthy freshwater system, and that diversity builds from the bottom up,” Prizzia said. “It’s really pointing out the fact that it’s the land and the water that counts,” Brady said.