Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hiding in Plain Sight

     One of the challenges of putting museum displays in an older building is working around the features of the building.  Sometimes these features can be adapted into the exhibits, but other times they need to be camouflaged.  We had some of these challenges in our building at the NMCWM.  Our biggest adaptation is probably the ramps which lead from the front half of the building (which is higher) to the back half.  When the building was renovated, the stairs between these spaces were replaced with ramps.  The ramps were then integrated into the exhibits.  You can read a post about our ramps here.  

     We also had to deal with some areas which needed to be camouflaged. 


Several support poles run from the third floor all the way down to the basement of the building.  Here in the collection room they don’t need to be disguised.  They would be a distraction in the galleries though, so we had to get creative!

The Camp Life gallery is directly below the collection room.  Can you spot the pole here?  You probably guessed that it’s inside the tree, but if you were just walking through the museum you wouldn’t know that the tree was hiding something! 

On the first floor, the same pole is hidden inside the wall to the Pavilion Hospital gallery.

     Another area which needed disguising was the building’s old elevator. 


Here you can see the door to the old elevator on the third floor.  Visitors don’t see this floor, so we only need a warning sign to remind the staff not to use this non-functioning elevator!

There’s no sign of an elevator on the second floor in the Field Evacuation gallery.  
The barn door which is part of the scenery in the gallery actually disguises the elevator door.  It also creates a little storage nook, as well as a convenient place to hide a sticky trap!

On the first floor, in the Field Hospital gallery, a different door hides the elevator and a storage closet.

     I’ll bet the next time you visit a museum, while you’re looking at the artifacts you’ll also be looking for the “hidden” items!


Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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