In 2019, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa revamped their nature exhibitions after 21 years of educating visitors about New Zealand’s unique flora, fauna, and geography. They asked us to design and build a data-driven digital experience for the new Whakarūaumoko Active Land exhibition in the Te Taiao Nature zone.
The result was Quake Nation. It’s a large interactive touchscreen that helps museum-goers discover that earthquakes aren’t one-off events, but spikes in a never-ending sequence of tremors.
The map displays earthquake location and magnitude across NZ. Earthquakes ‘bubble up’ on the map as users scroll the timeline. Clusters of bubbles indicate multiple earthquakes, making it easy to see NZ’s most seismically active fault lines.
We sourced topographical data from cartography studio Geographx, and seafloor data from Crown Research Institute NIWA. The NIWA seafloor map was re-coloured to look more like a satellite image while still allowing users to see terrain and fault lines.
We composited multiple different map data sources and transformed them into a single topographic projection using the geo-spatial software, GDAL (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library). The end result is a visually rich, but geospatially correct, layered rendering of NZ.
The scrollable timeline lets users explore the entire GeoNet earthquake dataset back to 1810. But it’s not just historical data. The GeoNet API feeds in live data every few minutes and alerts users when the latest earthquake above a specific magnitude is detected.
Each earthquake is represented by a white bubble on the timeline. The bubble’s vertical position shows epicentre depth up to 200km, and the horizontal shows the date. The magnitude is represented by the size of the bubble — the bigger the bubble, the stronger the quake.
We designed Quake Nation’s user interface to be fully accessible. Text and interactive elements use contrasting colours to make the information easier to see by people with colour blindness or visual impairment. The screen’s height and viewing angle is designed for kids, and people who might be interacting with it from a wheelchair or mobility scooter.
Quake Nation meets NZ Government Web Accessibility Standards, and is bilingual in te reo Māori and English.