You have to agree, people like Ben Stiller and Harrison Ford aren’t helping. If Hollywood continues to have its way, museums will forever be dull, dusty mausoleums with skeletons of dinosaurs in the middle of the room and a nondescript Egyptian mummy propped up in the corner. A place where ageing anthropologists go to die. If you’re lucky, all sorts of stuff come to life after midnight to terrorise the cleaners, but really that’s just a myth because it’s impossible to hire decent cleaners these days. They’re all working in IT now.
Bringing everything back to life is exactly what WA Museum was striving to achieve as part of a major refit that included updating the existing Perth building along with a new construction that augmented and complemented the older structure. Actually, it’s now WA Museum Boola Bardip (the original museum) while WA Museum (WAM) as an organisation combines seven different cultural locations around the state.
Coming To Life
The overall strategy was to integrate the reality of many exhibits that need protecting, and therefore feel somewhat distanced from the audience, with virtual reality presentations appealing to a younger demographic - bringing everything to life and within reach through projection, touch screen interaction and audio recordings accessible through almost 100 portable wifi headsets visitors could use for free. With parts of the original building dating back 120 years (it started off as a gaol) and the diverse range of collections on display, there was no one-size-fits-all solution that might be applied to every space.
Each room, and every exhibit, needed assessing from scratch to get the best result. As Elijah Steele, Operations Manager at integrators One Diversified explains, “We had to work to deliver a system, or systems, that had a broad range of capability that then allowed WAM to engage software developers who provided the best digital content for each individual exhibition, including interactives experiences.” Also, to be considered in some areas were the dreaded words “heritage listed” - far more nightmarish to any AV integrator than any hungry velociraptors chasing down a midnight snack. The architects were insistent that the new technology blend seamlessly with the historic facades.
The crew at One Diversified were undaunted (by the velociraptors at least) and it was decided that projection using Panasonic equipment was more suited to many of the exhibits due to the content the Museum wanted shown demanding large-scale imagery across a variety of surfaces, including floors and curved walls. A system design often using multiple projectors with mapped screens was put together by One Diversified.
However, as usually happens, every solution presents its own problems. Although most historical buildings in WA - indeed, Australia - are constructed from various stone material, on the inside WA Museum Boola Bardip has evolved over the decades with timber floors, walls and those wonderful cork, suspended ceilings that some bright spark thought was a good idea back in the seventies. Everything moves and finding enough solid mounting points for the projectors and at working distances from the screens was a real challenge. The best edge-mapping software won’t help when there’s a horde of school kids bouncing off the walls upstairs and the projector mount starts vibrating like a T-Rex is trashing the canteen.
Panasonic Projection to the Rescue
Panasonic provided the answers with its range of Solid Shine laser projectors. The PT-RZ660 filled many of the roles, with the PT-RZ570 coming a close second, and a PT-RZ970 featuring in the Changes gallery. Just as important as the projectors was the wide range of adjustable Panasonic zoom lenses available for each model, meaning the perfect combination of projector and lens mitigated any restrictions on where the mounts could be properly installed. As for the vibrations, One Diversified thought outside of the box and designed gel-based shock mounts based on engineering concepts.
Paul Beard, One Diversified’s Project Manager had a different problem once the job was finished - a high attrition rate in the personal headsets and actual damage to the historic casements and timber floors. Custom-made silicon covers now protect both the headsets and the décor.
In November 2021, WA Museum Boola Bardip reopened after a five year shutdown, the latter half of which One Diversified did the install, working around the odd meteorite or stacked cannonball display as exhibits were
reinstated. Thanks to the deployment of no less than 32 Panasonic projectors and lenses, the Museum has been transformed into a 21st century attraction for all ages and an important educational facility.
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