PANAMA.- The world today is facing environmental degradation of an unprecedented scale. The massive loss of habitat, the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species and of entire natural communities, and the rapid dwindling of the last wild frontiers on earth have ushered in the current biodiversity crisisa crisis that threatens to leave all future generations with a permanently diminished natural heritage. The prospect is even gloomier once the impact of climate change is factored in.
The depth of this permanent biodiversity loss will be largely determined by the current generations. The coming decades are truly the crossroadsand if people worldwide are motivated to take action, a large percentage of the impending mass extinction can be averted, thus leaving a world far richer in natural wealth for the generations to come.
The BioMuseo: Bridge of Life aims to be a decisive catalyst in safeguarding the worlds natural heritage for the future. The BioMuseo will reach out to hundreds of thousands of people every year, and will truly open their minds and hearts to the supreme wonder and irreplaceable value of our biological diversity. We strive to trigger that quantum leap in consciousness and attitude that can motivate persons, communities, and entire countries to take decisive action.
The global biodiversity crisis and its significance can be difficult to grasp.
The irreplaceable wonder and value of the worlds most magnificent assemblages of life can most easily be appreciated through a specific place as an example, a carefully selected case study that somehow manages to resonate with all people.
The emergence of the Isthmus of Panama three million years ago unleashed major climate and biodiversity changes of a global scale. The worlds largest ocean was split in twothe Atlantic and the Pacificwhile North America was finally joined with long-isolated South America. Ocean currents, and in turn the worlds climate, changed dramatically.
The Gulf Stream was bornturning Europe into todays warmer continent, while making Africa much drier. Africa became a continent of savannasthe very savannas where formerly rainforest-dwelling primates, faced with a drastically different environment, evolved into todays humans!
The scale of the changes triggered by the creation of the Panama land bridge enables Panama to engage global audiences like no other place, and these very geological events are the cause of Panamas extraordinarily rich biodiversity.
The biological diversity of the Americas was profoundly altered by the exchange of flora and fauna between North and South America and the emergence of two very different oceans.
The stage is set for biodiversity storytellingand few places in the tropics have a broader array of biodiversity stories to tell than Panama.
Central Americas most biodiverse country and a human crossroads since time immemorial, Panama has attracted far more scientific attention and research than most of the tropics, as epitomized by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institutes nearly 100 years of continued presence and work here.
The monumental body of scientific knowledge available today about Panamas biodiversity enables Panama to choose the most wonderful, the most revealing, the most sublime science to tell the biodiversity story with the most alluring, educational, and conscience-building impact.
On top of it all, few places offer the wealth of readily-accessible tropical habitats available in Panama, despite its small size. Panama City adjoins extensive rainforests and is within 90 minutes of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems in both the Pacific and the Caribbeanin fact, coral reef sites and rainforest sites are within eyesight of the BioMuseo!
For many visitors, whether Panamanian or foreign, the Museum will be the launching pad for a journey of discovery into the utterly fascinating and utterly complex riot of life currently at stake in the worlds most biologically diverse ecosystems.
Now being built, the BioMuseo reflects a partnership between world-class natural science and world-class design—fostered by an exemplary level of national commitment to the project.
Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the Museum will be his first building in Latin America. The spectacular design immediately evokes a riot of color and form—and has already attracted broad international attention and acclaim. The Museum itself will be a work of art.
The galleries, portraying the unmatched drama of natural history and biological diversity that unfolds in Panama, are the joint effort of internationally- acclaimed Bruce Mau Design, the Smithsonian Institution, and a wealth of scientific and professional advisors.
Gallery of Biodiversity:
Visitors are assaulted on one side by a riotous, larger-than-life window mural with a collage of life forms, while more intimate exhibits on the other side give them a sense of the quantitative magnitude of the Earth’s biodiversity, which we are still discovering but are also already diminishing forever.
A three-level projection space with 14 screens will envelop the visitor in a display of sight and sound featuring Panama’s natural wonders.
Building the Bridge:
The Earth’s inner forces that formed the Isthmus of Panama will take the form of three 14-meter high rock formations, allowing for a tangible and bodily encounter with crystallized life.
A stampede of animal sculptures of all eras, shapes and sizes will tell the story of the unique and ongoing exchange of species that takes places between North and South America.
The Human Path:
In a space partially open to the outdoors, 16 columns will provide information about the relations between human activity and the natural scenarios of Panama throughout time.
Two semi-cylindrical aquaria of great height will show how the Pacific and the Caribbean Oceans evolved after being separated by the rise of the Isthmus.
The Living Web:
A monumental sculpture depicting a strangler fig frames an exploration of sublime examples of interdependence between species o supreme tories of joint evolution amongst animals, plants, insects and microorganisms of the Panamanian rainforest.
Panama is the Museum:
Our final gallery connects the visitor with the rest of Panama. Screens and interactive stations provide information about where and how to experience the extraordinary natural diversity of the county, including cultural destinations.
In addition to the galleries, a botanical park featuring native plants with a leading-edge design by international landscaper Edwina von Gal, will surround the BioMuseo with a showcase of biodiversity. The botanical park will be open to all free of charge.