Copyright: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, photos by David Sundberg/ESTO
Visitors to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Lower Manhattan are discovering the beauty of Native American artifacts and the stories behind those stunning objects in the new permanent exhibition, “Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian,” planned to be in place for the next decade.
Electrosonic engineered, provided and installed 20 exhibits for “Infinity of Nations” -10 linear video stations and 10 interactive workstations housed in the NMAI’s George Gustav Heye Center in the Old Customs House. Five years in the making, the new permanent collection reflects the geographic and chronological scope of the museum’s collection, and includes magnificent headdresses, robes, beadwork, baskets and vessels, as well as works by contemporary Native American artists.
“Preparing for ‘Infinity of Nations’ required the first major renovation of the historic Old Customs House in recent times,” notes Electrosonic senior sales consultant Bryan Abelowitz. “The building’s architecture is incredible. It was a challenge to protect the fabric and integrity of the building while showcasing the collection for 21st-century visitors.”
With 700 objects on display, NMAI puts a new emphasis on aesthetics, beauty and art. The artifacts, arranged by geographical region from the tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic, are supplemented by ten linear video stations that display video clips, short texts and brief interviews with historians who help relate their stories. The stations comprise 15-inch Boland monitors with Alcorn McBride Binloop solid-state players.
Ten more interactive workstations from Electrosonic highlight focal-point objects representing each region, including a Mayan bas-relief depicting a ball player, an elaborately-beaded Inuit woman’s inner parka, a Chumash basket with a Spanish-coin motif and a Mapuche hand drum illustrating the cosmos. The interactive stations consist of Dell workstations, ELO 22-inch touchscreens and Dakota overhead directional sound arrays that were color matched to blend into the ceiling.
Playback for the linear video stations and computers for the interactive workstations are housed in the museum’s basement control room. Due to the distance, Magenta Cat 5 video extensions were required to feed signals more than 500 feet to the second-floor gallery. The control room also includes signal monitoring, DSP processing and a new AMX control system.
“The network-based control system enables us to monitor things remotely and detect trouble before it becomes an issue,” says Abelowitz. “NMAI has limited technical resources in-house, so everything was designed to be fairly automatic and extremely simple to use.” Electrosonic provides ongoing support and maintenance of the control-room facility.
Robert Haroutunian of PPI Consulting was the system designer. At Electrosonic, Ellen Simich was the project manager, Randy Sherwood the project engineer and Chris Hartwell the AMX programmer.
Electrosonic is an international AV company with a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has through its 47 year history developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Electrosonic brings a unique breadth of experience to each project; backed by solid engineering skills, project management and quality production facilities. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic can provide a wide range of services including consultancy, technical design, maintenance and operational support.
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