Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor

Finalist 2018

An extraordinary exhibit over 2,000 years in the making, Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor explores the remarkable science behind China’s ancient terracotta figures through engaging interactives, powerful media, compelling graphics and more.

One of the greatest challenges faced was the size and scope of the story, interpreting a site with over 8,000 life-size statues, 120 chariots, and 520 horses. The exhibit had at least 10 full-sized figures, and over 100 precious artifacts of jade, gold and bronze spanning 500 years in ancient China’s history.

The exhibit uses a range of techniques to help tell the stories of the terracotta figures, their creation, and their discovery. Several components incorporate multi-sensory and immersive experiences designed to transport visitors in time and place. The exhibit also features an original music score, an immersive theatrical experience and a recreation of what the site might have looked like over 2,000 years ago. The burial recreation includes a captivating lapse projection of a warrior through time.

Dramatic narration and lyrical animation start the story in 1974 in X’ian, China, where farmers digging a well discovered the first of the warriors. The animated story comes to a dramatic conclusion when the lights change, and doors part to reveal the breathtaking first look at a Terracotta Warrior. Armed with the backstory of these amazing objects, visitors are now primed to explore and experience the rest of the exhibit.

Engaging interactives help visitors understand the challenges facing today’s archaeologists and conservators as they piece together the remarkable history of China’s first emperor. Interpretive content encourages visitors to question what they see as they delve deeper into the science of ancient China.

Design Firms: 

Gecko Group


Franklin Institute, Pacific Science Center

Project Area: 

13,000 sq ft

Open Date: 

April 2017

Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Center (photography, videography)

Design Team: 

Ellie Byrom-Haley (principal in charge); Kathy Hughes (project manager); Jill Metzger (creative director); Lauren Igo (graphic designer); Phil Cohen (art director); Brad Bartley, Charlette Hove (exhibit designers); Allie Francies (developer, writer)


Klip Collective


United Services Associates, Klip Collective

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