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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EDUCATION AND VISITOR SERVICES AT THE U.S. NATIONAL ARBORETUM
2008 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To provide a center for education, orientation, information, and interpretation on the research activities, natural areas, and living displays of the National Arboretum for the benefit of the people of the United States.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
To provide formal and informal educational programming through exhibits, signs, publications, web pages, lectures, workshops, and tours; to orient visitors; to convey USNA accomplishments through media outlets; to coordinate public functions; to maintain a mission-related library; and to coordinate volunteer and internship programs.


3.Progress Report
Education and Visitor Services for the U.S. National Arboretum The unit works to transfer the research findings of the arboretum’s scientists and horticulturists to a broad audience of local, regional, national, and international groups, including professionals and the general public, through various media, including a wide range of educational programs (symposia, workshops, classes, demonstrations, etc.), tours, exhibits, web pages, a horticultural library, and interpretive products (brochures, signs, recorded tours, etc.). This year, the unit contributed text and design and fabrication oversight for a new one-acre interpretive garden on biofuel plants. Ribbon cutting coincided with the Department of Agriculture’s annual Bio Energy Awareness Day celebration, for which the unit coordinated additional exhibits and receptions. We partnered with the Potomac Bonsai Association to hold a weekend-long bonsai festival, which featured bonsai artists from California and Japan. Media contacts included taped episodes on cable television’s Food Network, HGTV series The Coastal Gardener, and two public television stations, and live broadcasts on three local networks. Print highlights include several mentions in the Washington Post for events and programs, recognition as a recommended tourist destination on the WRC News (NBC) web site, and a listing in the Washingtonian magazine as a favorite area garden.

The unit also assumes primary responsibility for the services extended to the almost half-million visitors to the institution’s 446-acre site in northeast Washington, D.C.; these include daily staffing of an information desk, an information resource center staffed by a librarian, and assistance in reserving indoor and outdoor spaces at the arboretum’s D.C. campus. Using new authorities, the unit coordinated the rental of spaces for weddings and other private events, generating revenue that will support the institution’s mission-related programs. The unit further supports the work of the research and gardens units by coordinating a volunteer program (123 regular in addition to special event and one-day volunteers contributed approximately 11,000 hours) and an internship program (10 part-time and full-time positions) and by providing image collection documentation, storage, and retrieval. New image management software allows on-line searches that will also be available on-line through the arboretum’s web site. Relates to NP 301 Component 1 of the National Program Action Plan.


4.Accomplishments
1. Informal Education for Visitors The arboretum created a new garden exhibit to showcase USDA research on biofuel plants. The unit’s interpretive specialist researched and wrote text for the exhibit signs and coordinated the design, fabrication, and installation of the sign elements. The unit’s special events coordinator played a key role in facilitating additional exhibits by universities and colleges on sustainable energy, all part of USDA’s Bio Energy Awareness Days. Major goals for the garden exhibit were to teach how plants may be used as renewable energy sources and how USDA scientists are contributing to solving the plant selection and process issues connected with plant biofuels. This project is under National Program 301, Component 1, which falls under ARS Strategic Plan Goal 1, Performance measure 1.2.5.

2. Outreach to Underserved Audiences Outreach to the Asian community through Asian language media helped to promote a spring bonsai festival, which drew over 30% more attendees than in the previous year. Two standing-room-only workshops during the bonsai festival featured a Japanese bonsai master who traveled to the U.S. for the event. Forty inner-city high school students visited the arboretum to explore the concept of landscape by hiking through the collections and natural areas with arboretum staff and volunteers. The arboretum co-sponsored the program with the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC. This project is under National Program 301, Component 1, which falls under ARS Strategic Plan Goal 1, Performance measure 1.2.5.


5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
The arboretum helped to demonstrate the benefits of farming for fuel through a new one-acre plant biofuel garden exhibit. Visitors learn how farmers and the economy can benefit from growing crops for fuel. As part of the Department of Agriculture’s Bio Energy Awareness Days II, the arboretum hosted a public exhibit of the research being done by over 30 universities and colleges on renewable energy sources. In many instances, their work demonstrated how farmers and farming-related businesses benefit from improved feedstocks and more efficient bio-refining technologies.


6.Technology Transfer

Number of Newspaper Articles and Other Presentations for Non-Science Audiences3

Last Modified: 8/2/2014
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