We’re excited! This week, we began work on our latest project, exhibit design for the State of New Mexico’s Van of Enchantment. The exhibit, which is housed in a brand-new tricked-out RV, will focus on New Mexico’s railroads, and will travel around the state so New Mexican children can get their hands on some historic artifacts even if they don’t live anywhere near Santa Fe. And yes, they can get their hands on them: all the artifacts are touchable. We’ll keep you posted as the project progresses.
Sometimes, the best projects are the really fast, smallish, down-and-dirty ones. Discovery Gateway’s redesign of its Media Zone exhibit is one of those. The Salt Lake City children’s museum employed Andrew Merriell & Associates to do the redesign, and I was the chief designer on the project.
Media Zone is a place where kids can learn about the many creative people who work together to make media—by stepping into their shoes. A family can write a news story at one station, record some special effects for it in front of the blue screen, and then go to the anchor desk to finish up their reporting. One kid can try out video editing while another works on graphics. Text-heavy panels are kept to a minimum, learning is constructive and experiential, and what one visitor leaves behind may be used by the next—an experiment in transactivity, the idea that both the visitor and the exhibit should be changed by their encounter.
Thanks to Discovery Gateway’s brilliant in-house designers, prototypers, and fabricators, we were able to take this exhibit from concept to opening day in about four months.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a historic narrow-gauge railroad that zigzags for 64 miles back and forth over the New Mexico/Colorado border. Its mountainous path means it’s one of the great feats of railroad engineering, and the passion of the people who keep it running means that it’s a 64-mile-long time machine, a working railroad now, just like it always has been. It’s an adventure, it’s beautiful, it’s historic, and it’s still an integral part of the communities it operates in.
While working as a designer for Andrew Merriell & Associates, I had the good luck to get to work on initial planning and concepts for the C&TSRR’s new visitor center, and now at Storyteller’s Workshop, I will be continuing on as an exhibit developer with Andy and the Friends of the C&TSRR.
When I move to a new city, I like to immerse myself in its flavors: books about it, movies, foods, and especially music. Philly’s soul music is famous for lush orchestration, romantic moods, and a smoothness you’re not going to find in, say, Memphis. Living in Philly, I was surprised to find that the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra was famous for having almost the same qualities, and I started to think more about how a place creates the sounds that come out of it. An exhibit called Broad Street Frequencies was born, using the city’s longest north-south vein as a means to explore the musical, organic, urban, and industrial sounds that Philly creates.
I developed and designed this project, including graphic design and construction documents, while studying for my MFA in museum exhibition planning and design.
Sometimes our work in museum exhibit development and design can lead us to unexpectedly delightful places. In this case, Kurdistan, although not literally, since we personally did not get to visit. You see, we have a little bit of experience working with Ramona Sakiestewa on her Cultural Values consulting projects, like the one Ramona and I did for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. These projects, which involve creating design vocabularies and other resources for architects and designers to use when they’re working with tribal populations, attracted the attention of some people who are working with the Kurdish Regional Government on designing a new building…and somehow it all came together.
Assisting Ramona (who does get to go to Iraq for this project), I have been working on designs for the building’s floor—marble and carpet—walls, fountains, and a gorgeous theater curtain. All of the designs are adapted from traditional Kurdish textiles. We want to design a building that’s warm, rich, elegant, stately, dignified…all the things we’d like our governments to aspire to.
one of our very favorite museum people, hired us to do some work on a series of experiments she’s conducting for the Oakland Museum of California.
I got to draw animals and get paid for it, people, which is pretty much as good as it gets. I drew a raccoon and designed a “Have You Seen Me?” postcard to publicize the museum’s new call-in map of Bay Area nature. Next, I worked on the web design for the “What’s Your Eco-Personality?” quiz and created badges for the various eco-personality results. These are the reward visitors get after they finish the quiz: spiffy images they can upload to their Facebook or MySpace profiles. It was a fun, fun, fun project to work on.
Every exhibit tells a story. Finding that story—and finding the best way to tell it—is what we love to do.
With experience developing and designing exhibits on topics as diverse as music, history, and science, we let our curiosity and passion lead us. We specialize in small projects for regional museums, and we also work in close collaboration with our clients to be sure their voices are heard.
Storyteller’s Workshop can help you conceptualize, plan, develop, and design an exhibit that will immerse your visitors in a unique experience that they won’t forget. To see some of our work, visit our Exhibit Development & Design portfolio page.