A lifelike Banyan tree recalls the tropical rainforest at the National Museum of Natural History.
Orchids of Latin America (Natural History, January 26-April 21, 2013) explored the crossroads of botany, horticulture, and culture. Exhibit planners wanted to transport visitors to the tropical rainforest, so they requested a dramatic Banyan tree sculpture at the exhibit entrance to evoke the orchids' lush habitat. Orchids has since closed, but the tree remains at NMNH.
Designing, making, and installing a life-sized tropical tree required careful planning by OEC’s Model Shop. The tree was made in sections to allow for transport and delivery through the hallways at NMNH.
Modelmakers began by building a welded armature trunk with removable branches. They then applied fire-rated urethane foam and carved it into shape. Next, trunk and branches were coated with a water-based, pliable material that would hold a texture and harden. Modelmakers sculpted strangler fig vines on top of the trunk, and stained both with color. The entire structure was transported to NMNH, where modelmakers attached branches, adjusted leaves, and painted the surface to make the Banyan tree appear a seamless whole.
When the National Air and Space
Museum needed a very special dog,
they turned to OEC’s Model Shop.
In 1839, Charles Wilkes led the U.S. Exploring Expedition into Antarctic waters, accompanied by a large Newfoundland named Sydney. For the exhibition “Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There,” NASM planned a diorama of Wilkes’s cabin. Naturally they wanted to include Sydney.
NASM asked the Model Shop for a sculpture, to be based on Sir Edwin Landseer’s 1831 dog painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society. (Fun fact: This breed of black and white Newfoundland is now called Landseer Newfoundland, after the painting.)
OEC modelmakers began with an armature of wire and Styrofoam. Lora Collins (Model Shop supervisor and chief sculptor) then piled on the clay and sculpted a lifelike, full-scale dog portrait. When the sculpture is done, modelmaker Chris Hollshwander will make a mold of the piece in silicone rubber. The mold will then go to a metal foundry, and a bronze cast of Sydney will be produced, finished with a black and white patina to match the coloring of the breed.
A new case display about snowboarding opened up at the National Museum of American History this month. The exhibit briefly traces the history/evolution of the snowboard from its beginning to current style. Objects on display in the Snowboard Exhibit include Shaun White's Snowboard and Snowboarding outfit (Coat and Pants), a pair of Hannah Teter's boots, and examples of early snowboards, known as "Snurfer's".
Senior model maker Jon Zastrow was called on by the NMAH exhibit team to fabricate brackets for the snowboards on display. He devised an ingenious bracket that is adjustable on three axes of rotation, which greatly simplified the process of tweaking the the object's positioning during the install. This was particularly important because Jon didn't have access to the snowboards until he went on site.
Although this exhibit consists of only one case, the success of the installation required fast response and effective collaboration between American History's team and OEC, due to a very tight deadline. The results speak for the high quality of each team member's contribution.
The Snowboard Exhibit is on the 1st floor on the American History Museum (Constitution Ave. Entrance) in the Far Right corner (Near the gift Shop) and will be on display at least through Winter 2013.
Above: The final installation
Smithsonian Magazine just posted an article on their blog about the work OEC is doing with 3D printing.Check it out A 3D Printer Goes to Work For the Smithsonian.
Secretary Wayne Clough paid a visit to OEC last week to view the production process of the latest Museum on Main Street exhibit: The Way We Worked. The exhibit was developed by MoMS and is based on a collection of photographs from the National Archives. The Way We Worked takes a close look at the important role work plays in American lives and how our workforce has changed over time. Five copies of the exhibit were produced at OEC and began shipping out to small towns across America at the end of August.
Being from a small town himself, the Secretary spoke about how important cultural programing like traveling exhibitions are for rural Americans. He also mentioned how impressed he was with OEC’s handiwork. It was a pleasure to share our work with the Secretary and an exciting way to wrap up the production of another terrific MoMS exhibit.
Secretary Clough viewing TWWW.
Secretary Clough poses for a photo at the entrance of TWWW.
Secretary Clough talking with modelmakers Jon Zastrow and Danny Feilding about the fabrication process of TWWW.
Check out the write up we got on MAKE:
Last Wednesday OEC welcomed a life sized fiberglass triceratops to our place of work. This dino, Uncle Beazley, currently resides at the National Zoo but will be our guest for the next few weeks.
Uncle Beazley has been in need of periodic upkeep and repairs over the many years he’s belonged to SI, and the OEC model shop has been the primary provider of these services. Instead of just patching him up again and working outside as we have always done, we wanted to utilize the new space we have here at Pennsy Drive and do a more thorough refurbishing of this dear old fiberglass beast. With LOTS of coordination and support from transportation, horticulture, the Zoo and building services, we managed to bring him over to Pennsy last week.
After he was thoroughly power washed and cleaned, we brought him into the building, which was very tricky because at 27 feet long, 9 feet wide and 9 feet high, he is at the upper limits of size for moving him around and through the hallways! Now that he is in our shop we are patching holes and cracks and we will soon apply an entirely new coat of UV and weather resistant paint. We’ll refer to early photos of him to try to match what he originally looked like. We hope to have repairs done and Uncle Beazley ready for return to the Zoo by mid March. Carolyn Thome is the model maker responsible for doing this work; and many, many others have helped make this possible!
The Office of Exhibits Central (OEC) has been collaborating with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) on the creation of a bronze sculpture for inclusion in one of the museum's upcoming exhibits. When completed, the sculpture will resemble boulder-size rocks on which visitors can sit, allowing them to interact with the surrounding sculptural tableau. Achieving a final result that closely resembled nature was a critical component of the work, which OEC model maker, Adam Metallo, accomplished with great success.
From the onset, the project was discussed extensively among the curator and project manager at NMNH; OEC's model making team which included Adam Metallo, Natalie Gallelli, and Vincent Rossi; and the artist who will be undertaking the other sections of the tableau. Before the initial meeting, Metallo--an accomplished sculptor--conducted research on rocks in order to study a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes so that he could produce a generic model that was not geographically specific. His research was used to help Gallelli produce a small maquette, which Metallo and Gallelli took with them to the introductory meeting with NMNH staff. Once the maquette had been approved, Metallo was able to begin finalizing the sculpture's details.
First, the outlines of the entire tableau were drawn on the floor. Then, the model making team used a variety of props to establish the proper height, width, and depth for the rock seating which needed to comfortably accommodate two adults, and be in proportion to the rest of the sculptural grouping. Once the dimensions and orientation of the seating had been determined, the next step in the process was to make a 3-D rendering of it in CAD software, which was subsequently printed out at full size to ensure that the sculpture was exactly as Metallo wanted it to be.
Metallo then glued 4" thick strips of foam together to make a large block. He used electric hot knives and wire cutters to sculpt the basic shape of the rock; the fine detail was completed with butcher knives, hot knives, and sandpaper. Once the sculpting was finished, Metallo smoothed the surface of the foam with a heat gun which slightly melted the exterior, in order to remove the knife marks. Lastly, the foam was sprayed with plaster using a cup gun to give it a stone-like appearance.
A bronze casting of the model will be produced at a nearby foundry, and the touchable rock seating will be installed at the museum. As Metallo observed, "It is quite exciting and gratifying to be able to create something that will be on display at NMNH for many years to come. I am also pleased by the fact that visitors will be able to interact with it, enjoy it as a sculpture, as rock seating, and as part of an important exhibit."
Written by Antonia Harbin.
photo 1: Adam Metallo--The rock seating model.
photo 2: Adam Metallo--Vincent Rossi, Carolyn Thome, and intern Matthew
Davis determine the appropriate height, width, depth, and
orientation of the rock seating.
photo 3: Antonia Harbin--The rock seating model.