Notable Trees of Tennessee Traveling Photography Exhibit

(Nashville, TN)- The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) has created a traveling exhibit that features photographs of 36 notable Tennessee trees plus a narrative panel. The display showcases trees from the TUFC Landmark and Historic Tree Register and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry Champion Tree Program.


Category: Education and Outreach
OVERVIEW
Since the exhibit premiered at the Tennessee state capitol legislative plaza in January, 2005, the presentation has traveled to 20 sites throughout the state including botanical gardens, nature centers, museums, city halls and professional conferences. Many of these sites have developed additional educational programs to complement the display.
The exhibit, which has reached a wide variety of audiences, has been an excellent low-cost way for TUFC to raise the visibility of its mission with the general public as well as state and local officials.
BACKGROUND
The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council, established in 1991, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to increasing public awareness and to understanding and improving Tennessee’s urban forests. The Council serves as a resource, liaison and catalyst to focus attention on urban forestry issues within the state, region and nation.
In 1996, TUFC established the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Register to recognize noteworthy trees and groves throughout the state. TUFC’s objective in creating the registry was to ensure proper maintenance of these valuable historical assets and to increase the public’s awareness of the natural resources in the state.
The Landmark and Historic Tree Register recognizes trees for historical, geographical or cultural significance. The application form for the registry is posted on TUFC’s website, www.tufc.com.
In 2004, TUFC decided to develop an educational exhibit featuring registry trees along with trees from the Tennessee State Department of Agriculture’s Champion Tree Program that recognizes the largest known trees statewide in each species.
Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of TUFC, says this collection was designed as “a gift to the state” that has filled a niche in educational exhibits for the forestry and horticultural communities.
COMPONENTS
Creating the exhibit
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture provided $3,000 for the project through its Agricultural Development Fund from the sale of “AG TAG” specialty license plates. The statewide membership of the TUFC matched this amount.
This enabled TUFC to hire a coordinator who oversaw the various stages of the exhibit’s development exhibit including tree selection, solicitation of volunteer photographers, exploring framing options, researching exhibition venues, coordinating transportation and installation logistics and publicity.
A tremendous amount of thought was put into selecting which trees would be featured. TUFC looked to include different species, a cross section of both rural and urban locations throughout the state as well as a mix of historic and large trees.
Once the trees were selected, TUFC sought amateur and professional photographers throughout the state who were willing to volunteer their services. Twelve photographers were selected to shoot the trees. TUFC paid for the photographers’ expenses, but not for their services.
Ms. Smith says that having multiple photographers contribute to the exhibit has added to its appeal and depth since the trees are “seen through different eyes”. Taking photographs in different seasons added to the variety of images on exhibit.
Preparing the exhibit for travel
From the start, TUFC kept in mind that the exhibit needed to be designed to be user-friendly, easy to both transport and install.
TUFC consulted with local experts who helped it choose frames that were light, yet sturdy and that would hold up under the stress of travel. In addition, TUFC had special travel boxes constructed for the photographs. The entire exhibit can be loaded into the back of a minivan.
Free standing grids were also purchased for the photos so that they can be displayed in areas that do not have adequate wall space.
Travel Policies and Logistics
No fee is charged to show the exhibit but host organizations are asked to transport the display either to or from its location. TUFC decided to limit the show to one region of the state at a time to cut down on travel time.
Host organizations are asked to sign a touring policy agreement that includes guidelines on packaging, damage, exhibit display, care and cleaning and unpacking and packing. TUFC decided to call this an agreement rather than a contract to reduce the amount of legal paperwork that might otherwise be required, especially by governmental agencies that might want to host the exhibit.
Organizations are welcome to incorporate their own educational programs with the exhibit. Numerous groups have offered other programs in conjunction with the display such as nature walks, lectures and educational games for children.
Marketing
TUFC premiered the display at the State Capitol Legislative Plaza in January, 2005. Invitations were sent to state legislators, TUFC’s statewide membership and members of the local urban forest community. This event garnered significant publicity for the exhibit which TUFC continues to publicize through its newsletter, word-of-mouth and its statewide conference.
RESULTS
The exhibit, now in its third full year of travel, has been displayed at 20 sites throughout the state including botanical gardens, nature centers, museums, city halls and professional conferences. Many of these sites have developed additional educational programs to complement the display.
Using the photographs from the notable tree exhibit, TUFC has designed note cards available for sale at many of the exhibition sites and on the TUFC website. This has been a modestly successful fundraiser for TUFC.
LESSONS LEARNED
1. Make the exhibit durable and portable. This means getting professional advice on how to mount the photos so they can be easily transported and still retain their quality over time.
2. Design boxes for carrying (or shipping) the exhibit that are user-friendly and lightweight.
3. Provide clear, written policies that hosting organizations must follow. It requires less paperwork if these policies are presented as agreements rather than as contracts.
4. Take your time when selecting the trees to photograph. Make the collection as diverse as possible including trees from different geographical regions and covering as many different seasons as you can.
5. Encourage local groups to be as creative as possible when developing programs to use in conjunction with the exhibit.
Contact Information:
Jennifer Smith, Executive Director
Tennessee Urban Forestry Council
6820 Cloudland
Nashville, TN 37205
Phone: 615-352-8985
Fax: 615-352-6762