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The Interactivity Behind the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Part 1

May 1, 2014 10:15 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

How do you tell the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life with audio, video, and all sorts of electronic sensors that didn’t exist in his time and make it look convincing? Alan Eidson of Eidson Studios was called in to install all of this for the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College and he’s about to tell us the story right here on the SVC Podcast.

Alan Eidson from Eidson Studios out there in the Little Rock area, it’s great to talk to somebody right in the middle of the country.

Hi, Bennett. Thank you for having me.

And what’s been happening at Eidson Studios? I know we’re going to be talking about the project at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, but what sort of stuff do you do generally at Eidson Studios?

Well, Eidson Studios, we’re an interactive exhibit design, content creation, and integration company. We’re a full-service video and audio production company and I’m considered what’s called an interpretive filmmaker. So most anything museum and exhibit in nature is called interpreting, so in short, we make documentary shorts in both audio and video for museums and federal and state parks and then we integrate what we create, too. [Timestamp: 1:31]

So we have a brand new museum opened on the campus of Lincoln College in, of all places, Lincoln, Ill., and these exhibits trace the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. And it was all brought from concept and design to reality by museum experts Taylor Studios in Rantoul and they brought you in to install all of the new AV gear and the triggered playback devices.

That’s correct. Yeah, they did the design, the fabrication, and then I come in and make the content and integrate the interactives and audio and video. [Timestamp: 2:01]

I’ve done a couple of the podcasts on museum exhibits where there’s a lot of interactive audio and video systems and it’s all pretty much on autopilot from the day it opens. When you install one or two of these activated playbacks it looks like fun, but when you have something like this one with dozens of them it could get sticky. Do projects like this really get more interesting than just putting in PA systems and video monitors?

Oh yes, of course, and it’s parallel to the visitor’s experience. People want to touch things. They want to have things start up. They want to interact. And so yeah, it’s much more interesting for me as the integrator and designer as it is the patrons, the visitors. So yeah, it’s much more complex; it’s much more fun. There’s layers and layers and layers of intricacy there. We try to pull it off to where it just looks like it’s natural and easy. [Timestamp: 2:56]

Lincoln College already had the museum but they changed locations to someplace bigger because of all the material they had acquired?

Yes. They had an existing older building with the museum and they had this idea that they wanted a big facility and so it morphed through several different things. But they have a nice, big facility that’s comprised of two different floors. It’s adjacent to some other classrooms and that type of thing, but it’s a brand new facility and it’s been a dream of theirs for quite awhile to have this nice museum to tell the story that they wanted to tell about Abraham Lincoln. [Timestamp: 3:36]

And it covers his life, his politics, and his death, too; a profound historical event, the first presidential assassination. Did Lincoln College get right into the idea of having all of the interactive sound and video exhibits or was that concept something that came along later after they had gotten started on the new location?

It was all from the beginning because what they wanted to do was something that’s not done a lot in museums. It’s telling a story from the first person, so with this Lincoln College exhibit, they created this story of Abraham Lincoln’s, basically it’s a life review. It starts from being shot in the presidential box at Ford’s Theater and ends with him passing away at the boarding house. So the exhibit is pretty dark and objects depicting parts of his life are oversized and skewed. It’s all within the concept that he was mortally wounded and hanging onto life for those two hours from when he got shot to when he died. It’s basically him telling the story of his childhood; going from a child to a young man, getting into politics, some of the other things that he got into before politics and eventually getting to the White House, leaving Indiana and going to Illinois and all of those political things. And then, of course, you witness him dying at the end. It’s a unique concept in the museum world. Most things aren’t told in first person, so we had actors. [Timestamp: 5:12]

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