On the 14th July the National Maritime Museum opened its new £36.5m Sammy Ofer Wing, housing ‘Voyagers, a permanent gallery dedicated to helping visitors gain a richer understanding of Britain’s maritime heritage. Electrosonic was selected by the museum to supply, install, commission and provide warranty of the audio-visual hardware. The gallery was designed by Real Studios, with audio-visual creative direction by the Light Surgeons.
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The new wing is the largest development in the museum’s history and is the first step of a five year plan to revitalise and refresh its galleries and exhibitions. The Voyagers Gallery brings together hundreds of objects, innovative audio-visual presentations and newly-commissioned videos all in one space. The novel projection system will help the Museum to make maritime subjects relevant to visitors on a personal level, telling stories of adventures and discovery in a unique and imaginative way.
“The Sammy Ofer Wing creates a spectacular contemporary environment in which more people can appreciate the wonders of our world-class collections and their stories of human endeavour and discovery.” commented Kevin Fewster, National Maritime Museum Director.
Voyagers: The Wave
The first thing visitors see upon entering Voyagers is a 25 metre dynamic wave-like structure, featuring bespoke video projections and a specially-designed sound-scape. Seven Panasonic projectors are used to display intensely coloured patterns of images and words which appear to wash over the wave’s multi-faceted surface, simulating the rise and fall of the ocean.
At one moment the Wave is dominated by two or three stand-out images from the museum’s archive collections; in the next, one of a series of film and image montages pulses from right to left, each a shifting mosaic of content that illustrates a key theme from the Museum’s holdings. Sometimes a bold flash of colour will light the space – an impression created by many similar objects being shown at the same time. These moments are interspersed by waves of text which wash over the surface, creating a constant sense of movement. Sounds of the sea, whistling wind, crashing waves and flapping sails, mirror the movement of the Wave.
At the far end of the structure a Puffersphere spherical projector appears to float on top of the Wave; a Christie projector placed inside its centre displays individual words and images onto the giant globe taking visitors on a visual journey into maritime history. The Wave and Puffersphere are animated in real time using “openFrameworks”.
Behind the Wave is a 30 metre long object wall, housing over two hundred artefacts; the Museum has taken the rather unusual approach of ordering them by emotion – anticipation, love, sadness, aggression, pride and joy.
The final element of Voyagers is a series of video portraits, Talking Heads. These take the form of recorded first person accounts from ordinary and extraordinary people from all over the world – coastguards, émigrés, naval officers, schoolchildren – each with their own story. A series of columns are placed towards the exit of the gallery through which the visitors pass to leave. Eight small video monitors inset in these columns show short films of people answering questions such as: "What does the sea mean to you?", "What is your maritime story?", "What are your memories of the sea?” Specially recorded at the museum earlier this year they provide a sometimes humorous, sometimes thought-provoking and even provocative insight into how Britons, as inhabitants of an island nation, still maintain powerful and meaningful relationships with the sea.
Anders Hall was Electrosonic’s Project Manager and Simon George the sales consultant.
Bespoke software was supplied by Flightphase and The Hub was the fit-out contractors.
Electrosonic is an international AV company with a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has through its 47 year history developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Electrosonic brings a unique breadth of experience to each project; backed by solid engineering skills, project management and quality production facilities. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic can provide a wide range of services including technical design, maintenance and operational support.