Has your museum or visitor centre ever wanted to tell a complex story in one exhibit? But you don’t have a large budget? This conundrum is common, especially at smaller institutions where funding is scarce.
Focus Productions recently worked with a Council client who needed to present a century of their town’s history in a single display and with budget constraints. They wanted to create a big impact but with a small budget. Thankfully, the museum’s goal – to captivate visitors and immerse them in history – was a great starting point for the project.
We decided that producing and screening a film only created a passive experience and that touchscreens, while great for presenting layers of content, aren’t adequately immersive. We passed on graphic panels as covering 100 years of history in text and images was essentially the same as putting visitors in front of a large-scale book. And with our small budget, it was impossible to create an elegant themed space with artefacts and interactives. So our solution became obvious.
Create a time machine
While our science team tried to overcome time and space continuum issues, the rest of us dreamed up a whimsical piece of joinery. A steampunk inspired machine was coming to life!
Focus knew the machine needed to transport people to the most exciting and pivotal periods in the town’s history. It was also critical that visitors had control and could choose their destination – would they go to the boomtown 1880s when opium was legal and pubs were packed? Maybe they’d travel to the 1920s and build some of the greatest ships in Australian history? Or would the mod-cons of the 1950s pique their interest?
In order to present all these options we worked with a talented filmmaker to produce three short films. All films are told from a first person perspective – giving the visitor a connection to the content – and each film’s music, language and imagery reflect their specific period. These shorts are also BRIEF so we avoid the dreaded “museum fatigue” and visitors want to continue their travels through time.
So how does this all connect into one display?
Visitors who dare to engage the Time Machine first encounter a glowing interface with gauges, lights and animations. After selecting the era they want to experience, the time travel commences.
Dials spin, lights flash and a large-scale projection with audio is activated. If you make it to the 1880s, you’ll meet Mayor Nicholas Tooth and see the streets through his eyes. Blast to the 1950s and Rose Jones’ home tour reflects the town’s story. As for the 1920s, drop into Walker’s factory…
Hopefully you do make it to Maryborough and experience the Time Machine. We think it’s a great way to share a big story. By skilfully combining interpretive content, interactive features and audio-visual technology, museums can tell rich, nuanced histories and truly capture visitor’s interest.