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Date: September 18, 2013

Virginia Tech study: New state park multimedia displays well received by visitors

(RICHMOND) -- A recent Virginia Tech study found that new multimedia exhibits at the Lake Anna State Park Visitor Center in Spotsylvania, Va., were viewed very favorably by park visitors. This spring the park visitor center received new interactive, technology-driven education displays to replace static displays developed when the center opened in the 1980s. Researchers from the school’s Pamplin College of Business and the College of Natural Resources and Environment partnered to develop the study.

“State park visitor centers should be places where visitor experiences are enhanced and knowledge of the area’s cultural, natural and recreational resources is informed,” said Joe Elton, state parks director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. “This study suggests that these new robust, multimedia displays do that in a most entertaining fashion.” Virginia’s 36 state parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

In a random survey of visitors to the park’s visitor center, 98 percent of respondents found the exhibits to be educational; 94 percent described the exhibits as entertaining. Similarly, 91 percent of survey participants would recommend the exhibits to friends and family and 95 percent would support the development of similar exhibits in other Virginia State Parks.

The study was conducted by Dr. Vincent P. Magnini of Virginia Tech’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management and Dr. Michael G. Sorice from the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “The visitors overwhelmingly like the new displays, intend to spread positive word-of-mouth about them and support the notion of constructing more,” Dr. Magnini said of the study’s results.

The Lake Anna exhibits were designed and installed by Imperial Multimedia of Baraboo, Wisc., in collaboration with state park staff. They feature a life-like storyteller, numerous interactive educational exhibits, several video features and a 3-D theater. A digital sign provides live streaming weather, notices of daily park events, alerts and a slideshow of special park features. To get a glimpse of the new exhibits, go to

“We find modern visitors are busy and demanding,” Elton said. “If it isn’t cool, forget it. If it doesn’t impress them quickly, it is an opportunity lost. We recognize young people may be spending eight hours a day or more involved with some form of technology and as a result traditional static exhibits can’t compete.” 

Buoyed by the response to the exhibits at Lake Anna State Park, Virginia State Parks, the Virginia Association for Parks and Imperial Multimedia will partner to design and develop new exhibits in 11 Virginia State Park visitor centers over the next several years. The partners, in collaboration with local state park friends groups, will seek private support for the new exhibits in the other state park facilities. Funding for the exhibits at Lake Anna came from the private sector, the result of fundraising efforts by the VAFP and the Friends of Lake Anna State Park.

“I’m very impressed with the public nature of this partnership, which is recruiting private money to improve public facilities,” Elton added. “The practical impact is visitors are more impressed, more likely to return to the park in the future and are more likely to appreciate the stewardship responsibility we have to our cultural and natural resources, as well as stewardship of our bodies through adoption of a healthy, active lifestyle.”

For more information on Virginia’s 36 award-winning Virginia State Parks, go to or call toll-free 1-800-933-PARK (7275). For more information on the Virginia Association for Parks, go to



Editor’s Note: The 11 Virginia State Parks to receive new exhibits are:

Belle Isle State Park, Lancaster County

Caledon State Park, King George County

Chippokes Plantation State Park, Surry County

Fairy Stone State Park, Stuart, Va.

False Cape State Park, Virginia Beach

Mason Neck State Park, Lorton, Va.

Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield, Va.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Huddleston, Va.

Staunton River State Park, Halifax County

Westmoreland State Park, Montross, Va. 

York River State Park, James City County


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