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AY-PE delivers AV solutions for new galleries at Imperial War Museum

The company designed, created and delivered 23 AV exhibits for the newly opened Second World War Galleries

AY-PE IWM Landscape of War AV

AY-PE, an AV, digital software and multimedia design studio for museums, heritage sites and attractions, has provided AV digital software for the new Second War War Galleries at Imperial War Museum London.

In a recent review of the newly opened Galleries, the Telegraph said:

“The audiovisual screens spread throughout the gallery are enormously effective. The highlight is the one of the Battle of the Atlantic, where the interweaving of specially shot footage of the sea with archive of the period is so artistically done that it could almost be on show at Tate Modern.”

23 AV exhibits

AY-PE designed, created and delivered 23 varied AV exhibits across the seven galleries that make up the new Second World War display. The digital media used includes a gallery of ceiling-mounted LED lightboxes, where the AV immerses the visitor in a sky-scape of dogfighting planes, Blitz bombing, featuring day and night sequences with an accompanying multi-channel soundscape.  

AY-PE IWM Battle of the Atlantic AV

There are also seven largescale AV pieces that form the backdrop to two large galleries, exploring the reality of war across four global land and seascapes, as well as five touch and hybrid interactives, allowing visitors to design their own wartime newspaper propaganda, look at more than 300 assets drawn from across the British Empire, operate the Enigma machine or investigate war art.  

Two large, multiscreen, projection-mapped motion graphic AVs show the decline into war and then one of the decisive moments to end it.

The new Second World War Galleries are opened in conjunction with IWM’s new Holocaust Galleries. The £30m project make it the first museum to house these two connected yet separate subjects. The story of WWII is told on a global scale, bringing in over 1,500 objects and personal stories.

Enigma machine interactive

AY-PE IWM Enigma Decoding Interactive

The goal of the project was to tell these stories on a global scale, to a modern audience, with a focus on the diversity of people, locations and events which interwove to affect millions, and the life we live today. AY-PE worked closely with the IWM, with the exhibition designers RAA, Sysco Productions (AV hardware) and with Fraser Randall project management to help bring this mission to life.

The project pushed AY-PE’s AV development skills in a number of ways, including developing a code-breaking touchscreen interactive from scratch, designing something at a low screen size/ resolution in order to resemble the Enigma scale, whilst also making it attractive to a modern digital audience. This was developed alongside IWM curators support, Bletchley Park experts and GCHQ to ensure authenticity.

AY-PE also developed a 3-minute introduction film to the galleries, using a fractured surface designed by RAA and the IWM, set at knee height on an angle and covering 3.4 x 2.7 metres. The surface comprises 6 ‘shards’ of different shapes and sizes, each themselves angled in different ways, all depicting the colossal ‘shatter’ that was the world descending towards war.

Designing the AV for that scale, at those angles and at that height meant it was a challenge to deliver visible, understandable, vital messages to the visitor in a matter of seconds. There was also a need for clear text captions and a BSL interpreter. To effectively work with the original ratio of archive imagery and preserve its integrity, the company developed a dynamic, 2.5D still image and motion graphic approach, blended with the archive, which shifted between the shards and full scale, projection-mapped to the complexities of the physical surface.

AY-PE believes that exhibition AV should have the power to excite, inform and astound visitors, no matter how familiar the subject.

Preserving stories

Director-general Diane Lees says, “The IWM’s new galleries, which have been nearly six years in the making, will preserve their stories and ensure that the world never forgets what they experienced…the opening of these galleries has never been more significant.”

AY-PE IWM Introductory AV

Patrick Swindell, project director, adds: “The shifting and expanding scale of the conflict is represented in a sequence of distinct gallery spaces – beginning in the familiar streets of Britain; extending to the wide horizons of a global war in Russia, North Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific. 

“The design of each gallery evokes these different environments through the use of immersive media, architecturally scaled graphics, and audio-scapes. Combined, these spaces convey the sheer complexity and interdependency of global events, and ask visitors to consider their tremendous impact on societies and individuals.”     

Pushing AV design forward

“The digital media which we have created envelops and supports this exhibition in a way that is accessible, modern, diverse and stunningly artistic; pushing exhibition AV design far beyond the boundaries of conventional multimedia presentation,” says Richard Playford, Creative Director at AY-PE. “It is a key component, prominently integrated within the entire exhibition narrative of one of the most iconic museums in the world.”

“It was the most amazing opportunity to work with one of the best second world war archives in the world, with curators and designers focusing on a contemporaneous narrative; showing the visitor authentic snapshots of the world war from diverse global and local perspectives,” adds Simon Ackerley, Project Director & MD at AY-PE.  

AY-PE IWM Theatre of War AV

“The challenge to design our AV to appeal, engage and inform a modern audience of varied abilities and backgrounds, using assets, design styles and techniques which stretched beyond what would ever normally be expected in a second world war gallery, AND to use the astounding archive at its foundation, was grasped and relished by our teams.

“This was a ‘pinch me’ kind of project and one which will last in our memories for a very long time to come.”

Believing that museum AV should be high quality, attractive art that delivers an instant connection to human memory and emotion, AY-PE creates film, animation, projection-mapped shows and soundscapes to touchscreen interactives, gesture technology, AR, VR and more. Recent work has included the delivery of 86 AV experiences for The Silverstone Interactive Museum and an immersive ‘ship to life’ experiential interpretation of the award-winning LCT 7074 Landing Craft at the D-Day Story in Portsmouth.  

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charlotte coates

Charlotte Coates

Charlotte Coates is blooloop's editor. She is from Brighton, UK and previously worked as a librarian. She has a strong interest in arts, culture and information and graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Literature. Charlotte can usually be found either with her head in a book or planning her next travel adventure.

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