Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum

October 16, 2019 Jenn Petersen

Innovative technology shifts time over 180 million years to bring the age of dinosaurs to life.

Los Angeles, California

OVERVIEW

Dinosaurs arouse curiosity, not just because of their sheer size, but because of the mystery surrounding their lives and their sudden extinction. And, there’s curiosity about the people who dedicated their lives to discovering and researching their remains. Visitors to a dinosaur museum are looking for answers as well as spectacular exhibits — Dinosaur Hall in the Natural History Museum provides both. With the world’s only T-rex family of baby, juvenile and adult skeletons on display, Triceratops, a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus and many other massive specimens, the dinosaurs are the stars. But, innovative technology turns visitors into explorers letting them join the pioneers who made the early discoveries and get inside the bones. Electrosonic partnered with designers Evidence Design, content providers Unified Field and Lexington Design & Fabrication to design, engineer, program and install audiovisual and interactive systems for Dinosaur Hall.

The innovative displays are as impressive as the dinosaurs themselves. With over 100 different specimens on display at the 43-foot Dinosaur Wall, visitors can examine individual bones, zoom in and rotate them using touchscreens. When they are finding out about dinosaur heads, visitors can use interactive touchscreens to simulate their calls. Technology recreates the dinosaur landscape too with a 15-foot wide screen providing an information canvas to match the scale of Triceratops and Mamenchisaurus. Junior explorers can take part in their own expeditions of discovery — a multi-touch screen capable of handling 32 simultaneous touches provides a lifelike game that recreates the challenges and excitement of a real dinosaur excavation. Through informative videos, interactive displays and digital walls throughout the museum, visitors can learn more about the explorers and the scientists whose painstaking work helped to unravel the mysteries of the dinosaurs. This is an extraordinary experience, using 21st century technology to interpret the lives of creatures 180 million years old.

CHALLENGE

In a museum where the exhibits are on a massive scale, technology is important but it has to take second place to the real stars of the show. Dinosaur Hall is a breathtaking visual extravaganza, but the real emphasis is on learning and interpretation. Pairing technology with fossils enhances the experience and provides essential support for building greater understanding of the age of dinosaurs.

Each interactive exhibit required a different method of installation to support interpretation in a relevant way. A popular touchscreen exploration game, for example, had to handle up to 32 simultaneous touches at peak visitor times. Touchscreens installed at the base of dinosaur exhibits needed to be accessible, but rugged enough to withstand heavy, continual use. An interpretative five-screen wall had to offer the flexibility to display panoramic content or discrete detailed scenes. Computers supporting audiovisual and interactive displays had to be located in concealed positions close to the exhibits to minimize the use of extenders from the remote equipment room. The challenge overall was to subtly integrate technology with the exhibits without distracting from their visual spectacle.

In the Hall, the dinosaurs are the stars but technology helps visitors see beyond the bare bones.

SOLUTION

Electrosonic developed a series of small, high-quality displays. Touchscreens playing interactive videos are built unobtrusively into walls or embedded into bases to enhance exhibits and support interpretation. Touchscreen kiosks at the Fossil Wall allow detailed 360° examination of dinosaur bones while an Interactive touch screen coupled with a compact full-range speaker simulates dinosaur calls. Large suspended screens adjacent to skeletons display interpretive videos or informative images.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Dinosaur Hall uses technology in an informative way to add clarity and understanding to its world-class collection of dinosaur relics. Multimedia soundscapes, 3D models, 3D animations, multitouch tables and interactive kiosks engage visitors and create a lasting impression. The Hall attracts large numbers of visitors and has received numerous awards, including an Association of American Museums’ Award for Outstanding Connections between Design, Content and Community Context.

"The big challenge was working with other vendors on the sequence of events so we knew what equipment to bring on site. So much of what we did integrated to what was designed and fabricated in place. We needed to be able to evolve with the exhibits as they were built." - Steve Calver, Project Manager, Electrosonic

Download a full version of this project profile here.

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