institution: Independence National Historical Park
category: Exhibition Media or Experience
Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, on the second floor of Independence Hall between 1802 and 1827, was the nation’s first public natural history and science museum. On display were hundreds of animal and plant specimens, artifacts from around the world, an enormous mammoth skeleton, inventions, and portraits of the nation’s early leaders. Charles Wilson Peale also introduced many important innovations such as gallery walks, naturalistic animal dioramas, and organization using the Linnaean system.
Because only a few paintings and artifacts survive, we chose to present the video about the museum using a more surreal approach which is a fitting tribute to the eccentric Peale. Peale and the museum come to life with a combination of greenscreen, compositing, and 3D animation. Wherever possible, we used original sketches, paintings, artifacts, and other documentation. For instance, we built a “fast-walking-machine” with a green treadmill for the actor to ride. In the background, he rides past period prints of Philadelphia street scenes.
When the video is installed at the remodeled Independence Visitor Center this spring, the monitor will show a static shot of Peale’s Painting “The Artist in his Museum”. When a visitor pushes a button, the painting will literally come to life and the video begins.