Great Northwest Exhibits

Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon

The “Great Northwest” exhibits at Oregon Zoo were the brainchild of then-director Sherry Sheng, who envisioned a transect across the Western half of Oregon, illustrating how Northwest ecosystems are interconnected. Jan Coleman and researcher Laura Firth spent a year and a half visiting scientists at Oregon State University, traveling up and down the Willamette Valley, and reading in search of information about niches for Oregon’s producers, consumers and decomposers. Eventually this became a series of “interpretive threads” weaving through each of the five exhibit zones: Cascade Crest, Eagle Canyon, Y’East Trail, Willamette Valley Farm, and Steller Cove.

Working on interpretive exhibits for Cascade Crest and Steller Cove, Jan collaborated with the Landscape Architect to create live animal environments supportive of producers, consumers and decomposers, especially focusing on the role of downed wood and its nutrients in each of the zones. Jan introduced public art into the interpretation, using commissioned poetry, sculpture and soundscapes to appeal to a wide zoo audience.