The former C.F. Hamblen Hardware store, a St. Augustine fixture since 1875, became a museum in 1963 and was acquired by Historic Tours of America, which operates tours in six cities, in 2002. At that time it was moved into a new location and its space enlarged to about 4,000 square feet. In preparation for the museum’s relaunch and grand opening last July interactive elements were added to the experience. Ryan McCurdy, who handles show control for Historic Tours of America, opted for Alcorn McBride equipment, which he had previously used on Savannah’s popular Ghosts & Gravestones tour.
Gear includes Alcorn McBride’s V4 Pro control system, AM4 digital audio machines, DVM HD digital video machine and DMX machine for lighting control. Alcorn McBride’s V4 Pro is a versatile, frame-accurate show controller for serial and network devices; it’s capable of running every day for years without reboots, software updates or maintenance of any kind. The studio-quality AM4 digital audio machines play MP3 and WAVs from Compact Flash cards; they feature many options plus built-in GPs. The Digital Video Machine HD (DVMHD) is a compact HD video player that’s rugged enough for the most demanding applications. The DMX Machine is an economical and powerful lighting-control solution that can store hundreds of sophisticated lighting sequences.
The first room visitors see is the traditional general store with a clerk standing behind a counter. A fast-talking presenter in the guise of a snake oil salesman attempts to sell the visitors the latest in c. 1900 goods and technology, from patent medicine to an Edison Cylinder Music Player, cream separator and milkshake maker.
Motion sensors pick up the visitors as they migrate to the next room where the store owner is caught dozing – subtle sounds of buzzing flies and snores can be heard courtesy of Alcorn McBride’s AM4 digital audio machines.
Next stop is the butcher shop where an audio animatronic butcher, controlled by an Alcorn McBride V4 Pro, cuts into a slab of bacon and recites the meat prices of the day. Again, flies are heard and chickens rattle their cages.
The warehouse follows, packed with exhibits. Video kiosks are spread throughout the environment, all the screens housed inside produce boxes. The warehouse manager takes over the tour, making his presentation from a stage where he steps on concealed buttons and the V4 Pro supports his sales pitches and stories, including a history of bicycles as one is lowered from the ceiling.
Visitors next explore a hallway lined with washing machines through the ages. Motion sensors trigger the V4 Pro, which cause the machines to shake, rattle and even spit out a cloud of bubbles.
The final stop finds visitors looking at portraits on the wall when the painting of C.F. Hamblen comes to life and relates the story of his shop. “The V4 Pro controls the DVM HD in the control room,” says McCurdy. “The portrait video and audio comes from the DVM; we chose the DVMHD because it enabled us to use HDMI and only one cable. We’ve masked the monitor so it looks like a painting – after the motion sensor is triggered the portrait is still frozen for a minute to allow surprise to build. Then Hamblen does some subtle things and begins to talk.”
As visitors leave they exit through a room with three synchronized screens showing photos of the store. The V4 Pro turns the screens on in the morning and allows them to stay frame accurate all day, McCurdy reports.
“The Alcorn McBride equipment used throughout the Oldest Store Museum Experience has been working great,” he adds.
About Alcorn McBride:
Founded in 1986, Alcorn McBride is the leading manufacturer of show control, audio and video equipment for the themed entertainment industry, and a rapidly growing provider of audio and video systems for retail environments and transportation applications. Staffed by some of the industry’s best engineers and backed by outstanding customer support, the company has demonstrated great agility in bringing new designs to market. A hallmark of Alcorn McBride products is their durable, zero maintenance design. The company’s products provide consistent, reliable operation for audio and video playback applications worldwide. For more information, visit