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Bringing a Collection to the Community through Accessible Technology

Tom Gallagher

How can a museum closed for renovation maintain and expand engagement with the local community while also creating a potential revenue stream? This summer, we collaborated with the Hispanic Society of America in New York to test out one possible design strategy: activating the museum’s terrace spaces by showcasing the collection through video projection and lighting.

Colorful paintings projected on the exterior wall of Beaux-Arts style building at night. Sculpture of knight and horse, left

Bringing Spanish Art into the Community

Founded in 1904, the Hispanic Society Museum & Library houses the world’s most important collection of art outside of Spain that focuses on the cultures of Old Spain and its colonies. The world-class Beaux Arts building in the Washington Heights neighborhood frames public terraces that provide a unique opportunity for community engagement. The intent of the project was to leverage these terraces  as a vehicle for making the art inside visible outside, thereby expanding programming opportunities and making the HSML more accessible – and less intimidating – to a wider audience.

The Hispanic Society planned to welcome the community back to their space in June 2021 with a live, outdoor reception. We wanted to create an environment through large-scale video projection and light that would captivate patrons, entice curious passersby to take a look, showcase the broad and unique collection of the museum, and demonstrate the potential of the space for events and outside rentals. The museum director noted that this event was the marking of a new era for HSML as they move forward with their mission, and as we emerge from the pandemic.

Painting projected on wall of stone building with brick stairs and stone bannister leading down to courtyard

We selected two projection areas to maximize impact and help HSML visualize how the deployment might look across the entire structure. A large blank wall of the North Building, located behind the El Cid Statue, featured an ultra-wide video image from edge-blended projectors. A section of the main building façade showed how the projectors could also highlight in portrait mode. Lighting fixtures were added to enhance the architecture, and were color matched to dynamically change with the museum’s painting content, which was also digitally animated and enhanced.

Technical Precision to Highlight Masterworks

Forty thousand-lumen Barco projectors digitally mapped projections to the details of the building facades. The content creatively enhances high resolution images of masterworks from the collection including art by Goya, Valazquez, Urrieta, and Sorolla. These are strategically projected onto specific surfaces of the building facades and interwoven with images from a current, temporary exhibit by local artists. Complementing the projected art imagery on convex surfaces are color changing LED uplights within concave architectural recesses that are color-tuned to accentuate the colors of the projected artworks.

To realize conceptual, lighting, audiovisual, and content development design services – as well as implementation of the full mock-up – we enlisted assistance from a manufacturer partner, Barco, a Belgian company and world leader of projection and imaging technology. They generously loaned three 40,000 lumen, 4K resolution projectors to the event, as well as digital video processing equipment and staff to assist with the load-in/load-out, programming, and execution.

The weeks of planning, preparation, and meetings between our teams resulted in an unequivocal success, with rave reviews from the Hispanic Society team and attendees. The future will tell if a more permanent installation will illuminate this corner of Washington Heights moving forward.

See more of our interactive technology design; this installation brings the “Cleveland Krishna” back to life. 

To learn more about this project, please contact: Raymond Kent, Innovative Technology Design Group Leader
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