The MAX was created to showcase Mississippi’s arts and entertainment legacy, honor their creative legends and inspire tomorrow’s artists. The overall museum design is based on the celebration of the artistic process, as opposed to its finished product.
“Inside the Writers’ Mind” introduces museum visitors to the works of three of Mississippi’s most notable authors. The storytelling strategy hinges on letting the authors and their work speak for themselves. Authors tend to be invisible behind their work, and in a museum setting it is challenging to bring visitors into the story without having them read a novel.
To meet these challenges, the design team brought the authors’ words to life in a hybrid of film and theater. It was a truly integrated design effort—bringing together the content teams to research historical events, acquire images, audio recordings and period furnishings, who were working alongside the media team to prototype, develop and user test the experience, both in tandem with the exhibition and graphic design teams adding context to the experience.
Each vignette is a thoughtful pairing of a writer discussing his or her inspiration and an excerpt that embodies it. This interactive offers a magical look into the storyteller’s mind—almost as if you’re inside their imagination at the moment of creation. Visitors hear authors discuss their work and process in their own words, and then hear an excerpt of their writing read aloud as projections bring the typewriter to life and show the story spilling across the writer’s canvas of expression: the desk. The typewriter experience is embedded in the reproduction of a writer’s studio—the study—using projected videos precisely mapped to a real desk, typewriter and book.
Richard Wright’s 1940s desk cleverly appears in black and white, and his pipe smoke swirls as he’s speaking; John Grisham’s law desk fills with crumpled paper as his coffee cup empties and fills. One of the only existing clips of Richard Wright speaking plays as if on the projected radio. As he describes inequity in the education of white and black children, period-looking textbooks and school books appear on the table in addition to novels that inspired him.
Eudora Welty’s real work environment is projected on the table while she talks about her neighbors as sources of inspiration. Her trusted journal appears, featuring observations she would scribble down and use later to write her short stories. Audio narration of Eudora Welty’s short story, “The Key,” plays and animations seamlessly illustrate her written portrait of a deaf couple. They sit and wait for their train while dreaming of their destination. Passersby, whispering rude comments, can be seen in silhouette around them.
The emotional resonance of the piece evolved and grew out of selecting the author excerpts and the works to be included; it brought out just how passionate writing and the written word can be, and that writing is a way to capture, confront, and celebrate what it means to be human (to paraphrase Eudora Welty!)
Cybelle Jones (chief creative lead); Ariel Efron (creative director); Julie Flechoux (visual and experience lead); Sarah Brockett (concept and content development); Miri Rosen (research and content support); Staci Hou (digital production); Juan Patino (visual designer); Jonathan Cohen (technical director); Tiffany Wiley, Josh Sennett (exhibition design integration)
58,000 sq ft
Roland, Woolworth and Associates (AV consultant), Colin Hess (graphics and motion design), Paul Rosenthal (script writer)