Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Life for the historic Aquarena Aquarium



Historical recreation area gets serious

Texas State University’s Aquarena Center River  

Systems Institute in San Marcos unveiled new exhibits in the  

facility’s historic aquarium, formerly one of the main attractions of

the Aquarena Springs amusement park. Dear to the hearts of many

Central Texans who grew up with this park, its famous swimming pig,  

and its alluring Aqua Maids, this facility is now famous for harboring  

sample populations of the regions many endangered and threatened  

species that have adapted to the constant flow, constant temperatures,  

and clean, clear water issuing from the site’s 200 or more springs.  

The center is now a research facility shared by the university, Texas  

Parks and Wildlife Division, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Why all  the agencies interested in this site and in these species?

Ecologists and hydrologists see these fragile creatures as canaries in a  

coalmine. If their population drops, it means that the Edwards Aquifer  

system, which supplies their clean water and habitat, is in imbalance.  

This information is very important to Central Texas since millions of  

residents and farmers here depend upon this water—which is pulled

from the ground and distributed untreated—for their lives and their  


Making Science Fun

The new exhibits at Aquarena—researched, designed, produced, and  

installed by Toxey/McMillan Design Associates and funded by the  

Edwards Aquifer Authority—teach visitors about the aquifer, how it  

works, how it was formed, and what species depend upon it today.  

Special lighting effects transform a cave walk into the underground,  

watery tunnels of the aquifer. Sumptuous backlit signs guide visitors  

through the tunnel, which culminates with a large-screen interactive  

illustrating the path of water through the aquifer system. This  

exhibit is free to the public. It is also a teaching tool, which was  

put to broad use just after it opened when News 8 visited the exhibit  

to telecast the impact of recent rain on the drought-afflicted region:



Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Wastewater Treatment Site becomes Nature Park, Wildlife Habitat, and Opportunity to talk about the Edwards Aquifer



TMDA recently researched, designed, produced, and installed a series of interpretive panels at the Cooks Slough Nature Park and Wetland in Uvalde, Texas. The signs adorn a large pavilion that overlooks the city’s natural wastewater treatment ponds, now home (or in-transit lodging) to multitudes of birds and other wildlife. The site is fast becoming a haven for watchers of birders, butterflies, and dragonflies. 


Tactile learning:

To enhance the interpretation and to provide a tactile learning alternative for non-readers, we sculpted the borders of the signs with the plants, animals, and insects being discussed in the text and images. Other sign topics include an introduction to the Edwards Aquifer and explanation of how it works, a diagram of the natural wastewater system, and tips for managing our water usage. The focus on water management and the aquifer reflect interests of the sponsor for this exhibit: the Edwards Aquifer Authority.



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Thursday, November 15, 2007


What's Inside? An Interactive Exhibit that checks you out.




In response to national obesity and health concerns for today's youth, TMDA is developing an exciting new interactive exhibit, called "What's Inside?" that measures muscle mass, fat mass, blood mass, bone mass and organ mass.

The Scenario reads like this:

The child removes shoes, stands on the scale and presses the "calculate" button. Height, weight and body mass are calculated. Lights pulse, gurgling, whooshing and synthesized "computing" sounds play, the tubes fill with proportional volumes of liquid representing the five main body components.

Educational Objectives:

This teaches, in a very tangible manner, the concept of body composition. It also points out, in a very entertaining, non-threatening way, where there is work to be done. (Read that "a regime of diet and exercise"). The analysis is completed by an on-screen display which says "perfect", or " drop and give me 50" or "a few less candy bars per hour" or "eat fruit instead of pie". If you would like to obtain this exhibit for your museum, please contact Patrick McMillan at:

© 2007 Anne Parmly Toxey and Patrick Cavett McMillan. All rights reserved.



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Thursday, October 18, 2007


Your Town Design & Planning Workshops


On September 26-28, 2007 Anne Toxey was invited to lead a series of workshops in the annual Your Town Workshop held this year in Granbury, TX (a small rural town just southwest of Forth Worth). Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Your Town Workshops bring community leaders and design professionals together. The conference is intended to provide design solutions to rural communities who are struggling to maintain their sense of identity and vitality.

The above photo (a building in Granbury) provides a small sample of the architectural uniqueness small towns have to offer. For more information on Your Town, click on the link below:


Sunday, October 14, 2007


Teaching What We Do: Exhibit Design



TMDA will be teaching museum professionals how to plan, design and produce captivating, interpretive and interactive exhibits that engage and educate our audiences. The Texas Historical Commission recently awarded the group the bid to teach a series of workshops on exhibit development and design. The workshops will take place in October and November and be held across the state in all ten regions of the Texas Heritage Trails Program.

Workshop participants who are largely museum staff and directors will learn core concepts on approaches and objectives of exhibit interpretation, methods of research, exhibit development and design, as well as graphics and production logistics. The workshops, part of the Preserve America series, are Part III of an ongoing series to develop heritage tourism, preserve historical and cultural resources, and boost local economies. The link below takes you to the September press release:





Monday, October 1, 2007


Uintah Western Heritage Museum & Regional History Center



The new architectural conceptual master plan is available for download and review! This also features the interpretive exhibit design in the exterior garden. Please write for user name and password, if you don't have it already, so that you can access these images, documents and movies.

The ones we want you to see are in the last 3 folders on that page.
Once you've had a chance to look these over, we invite you to post your feelings and thoughts here. For those of you who would like to respond privately, please write or call us.

Thanks for tuning in!
Patrick & Anne


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Monday, April 16, 2007


Amazing Media Exhibit Design Tools from Adobe and Apple


This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but since the arrival of digital video (also known as the digital video revolution) the ability to make films on a low budget continues to improve. Museums can now afford beautiful quality media presentations thanks to the continuous evolution of these suites. Two which we have been following, almost since their introduction, are the suites of tools from Adobe, notably the soon to be released Adobe Creative Suite 3, and from Apple and its newly unveiled Apple Final Cut Studio. Both of these links will take you to fun, poignant, interactive sites that not only show what these tools can do, but what you can do with them to boost your museum's appeal to visitors. Now all you need is a vision, a story to tell, and time to make it perfect.