As one of the Science Museum’s flagship galleries, Making the Modern World features some of the museum’s most remarkable objects and is a one-of-a-kind setting for events, allowing clients access to artefacts from our history such as the Apollo 10 command module and the first Apple computer. Following a competitive tender, White Light was chosen to oversee a brand-new lighting installation in the Making the Modern World gallery.
The project was designed by WL’s in-house lighting designer Jason Larcombe, who comments: “This project offered two main challenges. The first was to light the exhibits in a sympathetic manor, and the second was to provide a long term solution for lighting events driven by gallery improvements on the first floor. We worked through a range of solutions with the museum which resulted in the new scheme”.
The brief given to WL was to design and deliver a new lighting system that would allow the Gallery to maintain its existing look and feel during the day yet by night could be transformed for events. To fulfil such a brief, WL drew on their experience from another recent project. Jason states: “We installed a similar system at the Natural History Museum for the lighting within the Earth Halls. As a result, we knew exactly what technology to look at when approaching the Making the Modern World gallery”.
WL wanted to introduce two specific elements to the gallery: a system of automated lights to add a degree of flexibility to the scheme, along with replacements for the gallery’s existing exhibit spotlighting. All of this had to work within the realms of the Science Museum’s budget. Jason explains: “We knew an entirely new infrastructure would be extremely costly. As a result, we conceived a scheme that made use of existing lighting tracks and wiring, and relied upon wireless technology for data transfer, thus allowing us to maximise the spend on actual fixtures and avoid costly changes to infrastructure”.
The fixtures WL drew on included the GLP impression X4 S. Jason comments: “We needed automated fixtures which were small and compact, light (due to weight restrictions) along with aesthetically discreet. The X4 S offered this”. For the Lower Level, WL drew on the SGM R2s which are a full colour-changing, compact exhibition spotlight. The track adaptors on the fittings were also modified by SGM to fit the Gallery’s existing infrastructure.
For ease of use, the entire gallery now runs via Wireless Solutions Wireless DMX. There are four transmitters throughout the space and each automated fixture is paired with a micro-receiver, while the SGM fittings are fitted with wireless receivers as standard. Jason explains: “Due to the complex nature of the space, we realised that we needed to have clear coverage – something we could achieve with four transmitters. By ensuring that all spotlights had micro-receivers, this immediately reduced the need for any extra data cable and made it much easier to retro fit fittings”.
The system runs from an Interactive Technologies Cue Server 2 that allows the space to be as versatile as possible. WL programmed the system so that it runs scenes by day, specifically for the exhibitions on show. WL also supplied an iPad that features pre-recorded scenes, colours and light different sections of the building’s architecture as well as provide facility for stage lighting and highlighting of food stations and bars.
Jason explains: “What this means is that the Sales Team can use their iPads to show clients around the space and physically demonstrate its potential. No other similar museum we believe has this facility and it allows the Team to begin discussions with their clients at the very initial stages and close sales faster”.
Due to the Gallery being in constant use, this meant that WL had to complete the installation over the course of a month. As part of the installation, WL will also provide a member of our venue services team to assist production companies when the gallery is used.
Jason concludes: “Ultimately, we were able to fulfil the Science Museum’s procurement plan, listen closely to their exact requirements and create a model to make this happen; something we are in the unique position to offer as a company. The museum now has a rich and highly flexible system that offers new sales potential”.
Photos courtesy of James Mackenzie.