Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum
Designing AV Technology to Showcase the Prehistoric Past
Visitors to the 14,000 square-foot Dinosaur Hall in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County experience the wonder of the prehistoric creatures through innovative exhibits enhanced by audio-visual technology. The skylit L-shaped Dinosaur Hall showcases the world’s only T. rex growth series of baby, juvenile and adult skeletons, and also features a glass-sided mezzanine where additional wall-mounted exhibits reveal more about the amazing creatures, demonstrating what it’s like to find fossils in the field and to study them in the lab.
Electrosonic’s Design Consulting team designed the Hall’s audio, video and interactive displays, and Electrosonic was then subsequently assigned to engineer, fabricate, install and program the system. The AV system was designed to subtly support the new interpretive material. “In the Hall, the dinosaurs are the stars. You don’t want to compete with the T. rex,” says Electrosonic design consultant Steve Coe. “The museum was looking for small, high-quality systems, not over-the-top AV.”
Each touchscreen in the Hall is implemented in a slightly different way to support the corresponding exhibit. Some stand alone, while some are built into the wall or embedded into the bases of the platforms. For instance, Electrosonic designed rugged touchscreen interactives into the bases’ access panels and computers for the dinosaur specimens into the bases, minimizing the use of extenders that would have been required if they were located in the third-floor equipment room. These touchscreens allow visitors to review graphic panels and interactive videos created by Unified Field as they learn more about the bones.
At the 43-foot Fossil Wall, which showcases 100 diverse dinosaur specimens, Electrosonic designed two touchscreen kiosks to be positioned in front of the wall to allow visitors to explore each bone and zoom in and rotate some of them 360 degrees on the screen. A five-screen ribbon of 40-inch LCD monitors on another wall is hung at head height, displaying five discrete images or edge-blended content across the screens from five synced HD media players in the equipment room.
The mezzanine level features a number of exhibits with AV components. One display about the structure of dinosaur heads has an interactive touchscreen in its base that enables visitors to simulate dinosaur calls thanks to a compact, flat full-range speaker. A multi-touch screen, which can handle 32 simultaneous touches, is positioned alongside an exhibit of excavation tools. Its table-style configuration allows kids to play a game that simulates a dinosaur excavation.
The exhibit design was by Evidence Design. Fabrication of the entire exhibit was awarded to Lexington Design & Fabrication, whom Electrosonic was contracted with and has worked with on many projects over the years. The project manager for Lexington was Howard Smith. All interactive media programs were created by Unified Field.