The new bilingual exhibit Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo opens today at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) with a ten-day opening festival. Entertainment Nation is the centerpiece of the museum’s new Culture Wing and features over 150 years of television, film, theater, music and sports examples that have contributed to our nation’s social identity.
The exhibit seeks to encourage connections and conversations among visitors while demonstrating the ways in which entertainment has the power to facilitate social change. Iconic objects, videos, and sounds are combined with engaging technology and immersive experiences to share how entertainment helps bridge cultural divides and brings people together. “Entertainment connects people, celebrates our shared humanity and provokes contemplation and conversation,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Cortina Productions worked with NMAH, Reich&Petch, Cinnabar, and BBI Engineering to bring the spirit of entertainment to life through interactive and linear media experiences. Cortina Productions designed and produced five media exhibits, including “What’s Your Anthem?”, Prince Interactive Experience, and Digital Kiosks. As a consultant in collaboration with Access Smithsonian, Cortina Productions also helped ensure that Entertainment Nation is accessible through keypad navigation, screenreaders and QR codes that offer audio descriptions. Additionally, Cortina Productions produced a new film about the history of video games, which is featured in the Culture Wing alongside the Entertainment Nation exhibit.
Senior Producer and Project Manager, Katie Engel, shares “As fans that grew up with the stories, movies and music that make up this exhibition, it is so fun and rewarding to be a part of sharing these cultural touchstones.”
The “What’s Your Anthem?” immersive experience invites visitors to interact with a 3-sided projection by voting on various themes and then listening to related to iconic anthems, including “RESPECT” by Aretha Franklin for the theme of Equality and “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton representing Solidarity. As visitors enter the space, they are prompted to stand on either the left or right side to choose which theme they connect to. When the time expires, a camera registers how many people are on each side of the room and begins a media presentation according to the more popular theme. Visitors are then surrounded by memorable song clips of anthems that relate to that theme. Videos are accompanied by interpretive text to initiate dialogue and show connections between music and history.
The exciting Prince exhibit features his original Yellow Cloud guitar encased next to a replica that visitors can “play” in front of video footage of Prince in concert. When a visitor approaches the hands-on model guitar, they trigger various videos that feature meaningful music and lyrics. This playful photo-op also displays on-screen quotes from Prince to encourage visitors to contemplate his perspective and the impact his music has on our nation.
Five Digital Kiosks are placed adjacent to various artifact cases, enabling visitors to learn more about the objects featured in the exhibits. Each of the interactive touchscreens utilize Cortina Productions’ Thematic Collection templated software, which enables visitors to dive deeper into the context of each featured object while also allowing them to examine the objects more closely with zoom and rotating capabilities. The kiosks also include QR codes that provide information about the accessibility features and keypads that allow visitors to navigate with a screen reader and hear detailed visual descriptions of the artifacts on display. By offering a digital exploration option with accessibility functionality, the Digital Kiosks assist in making Entertainment Nation more inclusive to all audiences.
For more information about Entertainment Nation, please visit https://americanhistory.si.edu/exhibitions/entertainment-nation
Photos courtesy of Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and Jay Rosenblatt Photography.