Audiovisual and interactive experiences bring global cultural objects to life in a small museum.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in South London is a relatively small museum, but it had big ambitions — to meet its founder’s original vision to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill.’ The new ‘World Gallery’ fulfils that vision. The Gallery is designed to showcase the museum’s internationally renowned collection of more than 3000 objects exploring world culture. Its aim is to engage visitors by connecting people, ideas and objects. Video, audio and interactive media were to play a key role in presenting the Gallery’s key themes and enabling visitors of all ages to experience different global cultures. Electrosonic worked with project managers Fraser Randall, designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Yoho Media, fitout contractors Scena and the museum team on the design and integration of the audiovisual installation.
The entrance wall sets the tone for visitors with three large video talking heads introducing some of the fascinating artefacts on display. Later, visitors can find out more about the intentions of the museum’s Victorian founder Frederick John Horniman in an audio exhibit – Horniman Vision. The bulk of the Gallery is dedicated to exhibits from different regions of the world. In the African Encounter, a 55 inch LCD display with integrated audio is mounted within a street scene, recreating the atmosphere of a Lagos market. American Encounters features a video wall replaying the sights and sounds of a spectacular Native American dance. This is complemented by an interactive installation of three totem poles celebrating the Bear, Raven and Killer Whale. Visitors can trigger audio stories by moving interesting items on the exhibits. In Oceanian Encounters, a high-level projector recreates enticing images on the floor encouraging visitors to interact with moving fish, eels and coral. The Asian and European Encounters feature smaller displays showcasing local music and images to complement the regional artefacts.
Electrosonic was initially contracted to provide design and budgeting information to tender level. However, the design budget was small and had to cover two phases of work - a basic system design and budget followed by a detailed tender specification. It was essential to outline exactly what deliverables are expected from the beginning of the project. This included a written overview of each gallery exhibit, system schematics, budgets and pricing schedules and equipment specifications as well as scope of works and performance specifications for the audiovisual integrator’s tender document.
The installation phase posed a number of technical challenges. For Oceanian Encounters, an interactive projector coupled with motion sensing technology was designed to create an interactive experience. The projection surface required a special vinyl to reflect the images and minimize wear from the heavy footfall. Mixing projection equipment with valuable ancient artefacts in display cabinets can pose risks because of the potential environmental damage caused by projection heat. Electrosonic had to develop special floating screens, front-foiled mirrors and custom projection techniques to maintain a safe operating environment and optimum viewing quality.
Young visitors can interact with deep sea creatures in a digital ocean – a pool of interactive projection.
Electrosonic’s proven design document template provided precise system schematics, equipment and performance specifications and budget certainty for the tender as well as a fast, seamless transition to the integration phase. A central control room manages speciality projection, audio, video and media walls to illustrate stories from around the world. Cost-effective equipment, value engineering and carefully planned site integration time kept the project on schedule and budget.
The Museum now has the opportunity to showcase its vast collection of artefacts in an engaging way that meets its goal of connecting people, ideas and objects to increase understanding and awareness of global cultures. It’s popular with visitors of all ages. Careful planning and project management coupled with high levels of collaboration enabled the project to meet its ambitious targets within a restricted budget.
"We really want to bring those missing groups back to the museum and the gardens – our target is a million visitors to the museum every year. We know there are still many people who have no idea that there is a national museum of international importance here in south London." - Nick Merriman, Director, Horniman Museum and Gardens