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NORWALK, CT – Supported by a $523,822 federal grant, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will expand its economic impact as a state tourism driver by creating an interactive multimedia exhibit exploring the essential role of salt marshes in the health of Long Island Sound.
This exhibit will attract additional visitors to the Aquarium and Norwalk, while helping them understand the historic, cultural, social and ecological importance of Connecticut’s salt marshes, thus inspiring actions to protect these vital shoreline habitats, said Jason Patlis, President and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium.
The $523,822 was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and is funded by the American Rescue Plan program.
“We thank the Economic Development Administration for awarding this transformative grant to the Aquarium, but the Aquarium has a lot of supporters in Washington and here in Norwalk and the state to thank for their support over the last two years, who helped make this grant possible,” Patlis said. “This includes Mayor Rilling and his team, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, State Sen. Majority Leader Bob Duff, the WestCOG, Governor Lamont and his team, especially at DECD, as well our elected officials in Congress, including Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Representative Himes.
“Just as the new state-of-the-art exhibit and its related educational and online programs will draw thousands of visitors who will contribute to the Aquarium’s and Norwalk’s economic resilience, healthy salt marshes are essential to the coastal resilience of shoreline communities and the ecological resilience of Long Island Sound,” Patlis added. “This interactive multi-dimensional exhibit will give Aquarium guests an important understanding of the inextricable link between our natural world and our culture and history, while also challenging them to consider what steps we can take – individually and collectively – to restore our marshlands to a healthy ecosystem.”
The federal grant will be matched with $331,558 in Aquarium-sourced funds, including funds from various Connecticut Humanities grants, a portion of a bequest by the late Charles J. Toth of Norwalk, as well as the allocation of internal Aquarium resources.
Among the highlights of the new salt marsh exhibit will be two touch tanks featuring live animals – one with sturgeon and another demonstrating a working salt marsh with representative crabs, mussels and other animals. Additional key elements will explain how and why salt marshes support diverse communities of plants and animals, how they provide superior shoreline protection from storms and erosion, and spotlight marshes’ roles in life and culture along Long Island Sound over the centuries.
The Aquarium will develop new STEM-based educational programs to be presented in the gallery in-person and also virtually thanks to webcams that will open the exhibit to a global audience.
Also included will be an interactive display called “Marshing Through Time,” with multimedia storytelling and digital depictions of historical artifacts. That display will be created thanks to a $25,000 Connecticut Humanities Planning Grant.
The new salt marsh exhibit is expected to open in summer 2023. It will be built in the first aquarium gallery, currently home to the special exhibit, “A Slug’s Life: Facing the Climate Endgame,” which will be open through Labor Day.
Learn more about exhibits, programs and special events at www.maritimeaquarium.org.
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