The Museum of the City of New York undertook this first-ever permanent exhibition of New York City’s 400-year history by assembling a highly collaborative group of historians and education experts. A three-year, iterative and radically selective process with a multi-disciplinary design team brought forward an essential story of the city in three separate galleries plus two anteroom media installations. The exhibits tell a story through object-rich analog displays coupled with immersive media, in an all-encompassing environment dramatic in its modernity and reductive in materiality. A palette of materials and textures unites diverse delivery methods and gives the entire ground floor of the museum cohesiveness. Formal simplicity of planning relies on a base framework of symmetry and balance. Ultimately the accuracy of each detail, both virtual and physical, enriches a highly focused, singular curatorial narrative. In anterooms at both ends of a long connective corridor, specially designed LED displays with bespoke screens present “pixelated images” that draw the visitors into the NYC history. Seen as “art piece” rather than a conventional slide show, images become more abstract as one approaches, encouraging movement into the galleries. An architectural environment of black reflective vertical surfaces gives depth, illuminating the timeless quality of the artifacts. A projected image of the past dissolves to today’s view of the same location. Interactive “totems” highlight discrete unexpected people and objects that bring the past to life. Content emphasizes harsh realities of 20th century social, economic and political challenges mixing iconic characters with untold tales. Notable individuals can be engaged via a large-scale interactive presentation at the rear of the space. Visitors touch silhouettes of people with embedded imagery to unpack further content. Black background with reflective perforated and luminous treatments makes for a dramatic interface with historic objects.
Wendy Evans Joseph, Monica Coghlan, Jose Luis Vidalon, Hannah Pavlovich, Jennifer Chu
Local Projects (media design), Pentagram (graphic design), Clinard Lighting (lighting design), BBI (AV media integrator)
Southside Design and Building (exhibition contractor), BBI (AV media fabricator)