GLAMi nomination: Story of the Forest – Bringing to life a 200 year old collection

nominated by: Jervais Choo, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore
institution: National Museum of Singapore
category: Exhibition Media or Experience

The National Museum of Singapore embarked on an ambitious project in 2014 to breathe new life into a 200 year old collection of watercolour drawings. The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings is a comprises of 477 drawings documenting the flora and fauna of the region, dating back to 1806. As part of the museums plans to revamp its permanent galleries, it was decided that the main entrance to the permanent Singapore History Gallery be converted into an immersive digital art space which will serve to introduce visitors to this core collection, bringing it to ‘life’ in digital format. The museum thus commissioned Japanese art collective teamLab and provided them with a clear brief to create an immersive experience for our visitors using the collection.

The result is a 15m tall dome structure within the Glass Rotunda, comprising of about 170m of continuous projection surface stitched together by 59 laser projectors. The digital art installation is entitled Story of the Forest, and brings together 3 different experience zones. Visitors enter from the Upper Rotunda where they experience a cascading Falling Universe of Flowers, before entering a 144m long Passage Way where the animals come to life and respond to visitors walking past. The algorithim in the Passage Way is created such that random and calibrated sequences occur and visitors are unlikely to ever encounter the same sequence of experiences with each visit. A mobile application is available for visitors to download, which one can use to ‘catch’ the animals as they walk past, providing more details and information about the richness of this important natural history collection. The final experience zone is found in the Lower Rotunda where visitors enter into a 360 degree view where digital trees and animals are triggered to life with the presence of people, representing the symbiotic relationship between man and our natural history environment.

This immersive digital installation is a complex endeavour employing cutting edge technology and digital artistry within the permanent galleries, and is groundbreaking in approach blending contemporary art, digital immersion and centered on drawing relevance to a key and important collection of a social history museum.

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