Home » Archives for schickj

Author: schickj

Frankly Impressive

OEC acquires the Frank Acrylic Component System profiler

In May the Office of Exhibits Central joined an exclusive club, when it became home to one of three Frank ACS profilers in the world. The machine will allow OEC to produce Frank ACS display cases for use across the Smithsonian (and its partners). The beautifully clean, minimalist, “barely there” look of Frank cases gives museum-goers the clearest possible view of the artifacts inside.

More reasons for OEC’s enthusiasm: The system turns out precisely engineered acrylic vitrines quickly, in almost any size, at lower cost. And it’s eco-friendly; no toxic solvents are used. Frank cases are modular and easy to assemble, and they can be packed flat for shipping and storage, reducing the amount of packing.

OEC has created its first Frank cases for SAAM, and cases for Cooper-Hewitt are under way. Many more to follow!


Artists and Their Models

Have you ever wondered about the subject of a painting? Why is the Mona Lisa smiling, or what accounts for the uncertain expression on the face of the Girl with a Pearl Earring?

Curator Elizabeth Botten was inspired to uncover the “names and stories” of models by a photograph in the Archives of American Art. The result of her exploration is new exhibit, Artists and Their Models from the Archives of American Art, which takes a look at the lives of the models through photographs, letters, and other ephemera.

The Office of Exhibits Central partnered with the Archives to design, edit, and print and install exhibition graphics. Designer Emily Sloat Shaw created a motif of intersecting lines to convey the relationships between artist, model, and viewer. Translucent window scrims of artists’ sketches highlight the result of the artist and model’s collaboration. Graphics specialist Jessica Schick produced exhibition graphics and led graphic installation.


graphic install

Graphics specialist Jessica Schick installs the title graphic.
intro panel

A view of the introductory panel, with the motif of intersecting lines.
window scrim

Graphics specialists install a window scrim.
laser level

Graphics specialist Evan Keeling and curator Elizabeth Botten use a laser level during installation.
exhibit in process

A view of the exhibit during installation.
exhibit detail

A detail from the completed exhibition.

Artists and Their Models is on view in the Lawrence Fleischman Gallery at the Reynolds Center through August 27, 2014. 

Abe Lincoln’s Hat

The hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night he died found its way to the OEC Model Shop. Given to the Smithsonian in 1867, just two years after Lincoln’s death, the hat was not exhibited until 1893. The hat was scanned and 3D-printed in nylon. Next, the printed hat was handed over to the Model Shop for painting and finishing. Model maker Megan Dattoria applied all of the color by hand, using acrylic paints. Source images allowed Megan to identify worn sections of material and recreate them on the printed hat. Applying the paint in layers, she created a finish that shows all the signs of aging that the real hat has. 



A 3D print of Lincoln's hat, next to photographs of the original.



Megan applied color in layers to mimic the worn appearance of the original.



The completed hat


Hometown Teams and Visualizing Exhibits

Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America explores the ways in which sports affect American culture. The exhibit was curated by Museum on Main Street and designed, edited and fabricated by the Office of Exhibits Central. OEC prepared five copies of Hometown Teams, which will tour the United States and territories over the next five years.

Designers used a variety of tools to visualize this exhibit. They drafted drawings, built scale models, and created 3D renderings. Each of these different methods of visualization offered unique benefits. The images below illustrate how OEC designers explored the look, feel, and experience of Hometown Teams.

Drawing is the designer’s standby. It is a traditional method, and frequently the quickest to execute. Designers can sketch out ideas, place text, images, and draft plans, elevations, and perspectives.


This drawing is an example of the graphic design and structural elements of one section of Hometown Teams.

Sometimes a two-dimensional drawing can’t capture how various elements of the exhibition relate to one another. Designers build scale models to add that third dimension and physicality. These models help designers and curators work together to refine exhibition flow and content.


This model is an early design of the pylons used in the show.

An updated version of the scale model is the 3D rendering. Digital models offer designers, clients, and visitors the added advantage of being able to easily view the exhibit from multiple perspectives. Designers can also create fly through animations to give the visitor the feeling of moving through an exhibition.


This animation moves the viewer through the entire exhibition.

Coming Attractions: Beyond Bollywood

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation opens February 27 at the National Museum of Natural History. Organized by the Asian Pacific American Center, this exhibit hightlights the histories and contributions of Indian Americans. Beyond Bollywood is not only the largest exhibit on this subject, but it also inagurates a new gallery space at the Natural History Museum. 

OEC is responsible for design, production, and installation of Beyond Bollywood. Here is a behind-the-scenes preview of the upcoming exhibition:

Images Images2 Images3

Created with flickr slideshow.

Unwrapping the Cosmic Buddha

The intricate images that cover this monumental standing Buddha are very difficult to see. Traditionally, scholars have made rubbings with black ink on white paper to study such low-relief carvings. But digital scanning and CNC milling make another approach possible.

Curator Keith Wilson asked OEC to create a touchable model of the details on this Chinese limestone figure, known as the Cosmic Buddha. They provide a rare glimpse into early Chinese visions of the Buddhist world, a kind of symbolic map depicting a cosmos with an infinite number of realms. Traces of pigment on the surface suggest that the dense design was originally painted, which would have made the scenes easier to perceive.

The 3D Digitization Office provided hi-res images of an “unwrapped” view of the Buddha—that is, with the details laid out flat instead of “in the round.” OEC model maker Chris Hollshwander then ran the scans through specialized software to prepare them for the Haas CNC Mill. The CNC Mill can work with a wide variety of materials, so Hollshwander experimented, machining 3D models out of polyurethane board and aluminum. This technique can be used to create touchable models of any scannable object in the Smithsonian collections.

The finished model serves as a case study for how to translate 3D scans into “unwrapped” touchable models that can be used for research and education in a variety of ways: to provide hands-on learning opportunities for low-vision visitors in the galleries, or for teaching rubbing techniques to new scholars. Wilson plans to use multiple copies for experimenting with the application of pigment, to explore ideas about the figure’s original appearance.


Cosmic Buddha

Left to right: The Cosmic Buddha Buddha Vairochana (Pilushena) with the Realms
of Existence China, probably Henan province, Northern Qi dynasty, 550–77, Limestone
with traces of pigment, Freer Gallery of Art; Shoulder detail; Traditional ink
rubbing; 3D scan

Flattened or “unwrapped” digital view with scene divisions indicated; Haas CNC Mill at work milling the Buddha out of synthetic board
Cosmic Buddha relief models

Left to right: synthetic board and aluminum models of the unwrapped Buddha

Thanks to contributors Keith Wilson, Curator of Ancient Chinese Art, Freer Gallery of Art/Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Chris Hollshwander, Model Maker, Office of Exhibits Central


In/finite Earth

A Juried Exhibition of 15 Emerging Artists with Disabilities

OEC once again worked with VSA (formerly Very Special Arts) and the Volkswagen Group of America to install the twelfth exhibition of the Emerging Arts Program, which opened on October 24 in the S. Dillon Ripley Center. This longtime collaboration provides artists who are living with disabilities, ages 16–25, with an unprecedented opportunity to receive national recognition at the start of their careers. This year’s theme examines the intersection of environmentalism, creativity, and disability. The 15 artists showcased here have distinct, innovative, and compelling responses.

In/finite Earth was originally scheduled to open on October 1, but due to the shutdown, the installation had to be moved back a few weeks. In/finite Earth will remain on view in the S. Dillon Ripley Center until January 6, 2014. After it closes at the Smithsonian, the show will embark on a national tour.

For more information about this exhibition, visit


In/finite Earth
Images, left to right: Installation of Containing Crohn’s, by LaAndrea Mitchell. Karla Torres, In La’Kesh, screenprint on cotton muslin.
In/finite EarthImages, left to right: Haylee Fucini-Lenky, La dame du lac, color photograph. Kristi Beisecker, Flowers, Kirlian (electricity) photography on photo paper.


New Date for OEC Open House!

Wednesday, December 4
8:30-10:30 am | 12:30-2:30 pm

The Federal shutdown forced us to postpone the second OEC Open
House, but we’ve found a new date. Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the
Smithsonian’s largest, most comprehensive exhibit producer in our state-of-the
art building. All Smithsonian staff, interns, and volunteers are welcome!

Light refreshments will be served.
Shuttle transportation to and from the Mall
is provided.
Plan to join? Questions? Please rsvp to Peggy
Abel at AbelP@si.edu or x82095 

To get you excited about next month’s event,
here is a peek at the first Open House, held on September 24.



Top row, left to right: Guests enjoy refreshments; editor Rosemary Regan describes the Hometown Teams exhibit. Second row: Modelmaker Daniel Fielding; modelmaker Carolyn Thome with 3D-printed models. Third row: Project manager Rob Wilcox (center) and graphics specialist Evan Keeling show off samples of direct printing; project management supervisor Mary Bird and guest; modelmaker Chris Hollschwander and guest watch the Haas CNC Milling Machine at work. Bottom row: The OEC team shows off their new team t-shirts.

Open House at OEC!

Join us for a tour of the Office of Exhibits Central

Choose the day and time that works best for you:

Tuesday, September 24

Thursday October 3

8:30 am to 10:30 am

12:30 pm to 2:30 pm

This tour is open to all Smithsonian staff, interns, and volunteers.

Please rsvp to Peggy Abel at x82095 or abelp@si.edu

Check out our invitation below:


Building a Better Exhibit Case

The Office of Exhibits Central and the Museum Conservation Institute develop affordable and sustainable conservation-grade casework.

OEC collaborated with MCI to design and test exhibit cases that meet the stringent requirements of object conservators to keep Smithsonian artifacts safe from environmental damage and material degradation.

Previously, Smithsonian museums had to contract this kind of specialized work out to one of a handful of manufacturers. The cost of these cases was almost always prohibitive, especially for temporary exhibits. The new high-level conservation-grade casework can be produced at a reasonable cost in-house at OEC.

Mindful of the Smithsonian’s commitment to sustainability, the system encourages recycling. Existing exhibition cases can be retrofitted with conservation-grade object chambers. The cases also address both security concerns and fire safety.

The process and construction technique are the result of years of effort by staff members at both OEC and MCI. Conservator Jia-Sun Tsang tested a wide range of products to determine the best conservation-grade materials to construct the case. OEC provided the engineering, equipment, and fabrication expertise.


microchamber, or sealed object chamber

Illustration of object chamber, desk, and vitrine. The sealed object chamber, called a “microchamber,” isolates a museum object from harmful gases and other materials and maintains a stable humidity.


Microchamber fitted into exhiition case

Microchamber fitted into exhibition case.


Helmet in conservation grade case

This microchamber with deck was retrofitted to an ex¬isting wooden case. A set of metal coupons (back right corner)—used to monitor conditions inside the case—showed no corrosion after nine months. Photo: Don Hurlbert, NMNH.


Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations

Wooden display cases retrofitted with conservation-grade microchambers for the exhibition “Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, 2010–2011. Photo: Don Hurlbert, NMNH.

For more information about conservation-grade cases, click below to download: “Conservation Meets Sustainability: Recycling Wooden Exhibition Cases.” WAAC Newsletter, Volume 35, Number 2, May 2013

Download Conservation Meets Sustainability