Hallway displays of the Romney Geology Museum

After years of renovations, the Romney Building's Geology Museum is now finished, with hallway displays that will allow students and visitors to have a more interactive experience.

Renovations began when Forest Gahn, faculty member in the Department of Geology, first came to Brigham Young University-Idaho. Gahn worked at the Smithsonian Institution from 2004-2006 where he worked as an exhibit designer. After coming to BYU-Idaho in 2006 and seeing the high number of visitors for the Geology Museum, he initiated plans to renovate.

"We get a lot of visitors from the community," Gahn said. "A lot of school groups come in each year to visit, so we wanted to try and make that experience better for them and the campus community as a whole. We wanted to make our exhibits more educational and beneficial for our courses as well."

Gahn was able to bring his expertise from his work at the Smithsonian, and brought many ideas of how to make the museum more interactive for all who come. One of those ideas was to start outside of the museum in the hallways.

Many of the improvements in the hallways were for seating areas to be placed in recessed areas underneath display cases that the Geology and Physics Departments worked on together.

"What we ultimately decided to do with it was to tell the story of the universe and the formation of the earth and the history of life on earth," Gahn said. "Basically from the origin of the universe through the rise of human civilizations."

A majority of community members who come to the Romney Building come for the planetarium show that takes place every Thursday night. Tickets sell out quickly, so most of the attendees arrive between 45 minutes to an hour early. With the renovations to the hallway, visitors are now able to enjoy all the displays that will eventually lead them to the museum.

Students and faculty can also enjoy taking the time to walk through the halls between classes and look at the displays or study in the seating areas offered.

In addition to working with the Physics Department, the Geology Department also worked with several graphic design students and artists to help create a new, clean layout for the artifacts to be presented on, as well as infographics that hold easy-to-read information about specimens on display.

A gray cityscape is what was decided on to hold the different artifacts, and these offer viewers a clean layout to better understand what they are seeing.

"When I got here, we just crammed as much as we could onto that flat shelving," Gahn said. "It's like a grandma's knick-knack experience. There was so much to look at that you couldn't see anything."

By reducing the number of labels the exhibits were decluttered, creating a better learning experience for museum visitors. A few labels offer an overarching theme to the displays they present, but the labels for individual specimens are now offered through QR codes.

Anyone with a smartphone can now scan these QR codes and find a wealth of information and pictures on everything in the museum. For those without smartphones, an iPad in the museum will be offered with the same information to use, so all visitors can access the same information.