The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, in Chicago, recently completed a year-long, $8 million renovation that complete reimagining the presentation of the story behind the U.S. Army’s famed division known as the Big Red One.
The new version has extensive storytelling installations that integrate interactive media and other historic artifacts through experiential design. The program was master-planned and delivered by Chicago exhibit design firm Luci Creative.
“We were hired to develop a holistic new experience for the First Division Museum with a contemporary design approach, aiming to inspire deeper connections between visitors and all those who serve our country,” says AJ Goehle, Principal at Luci Creative. “As we are seeing already, the new design elements, multi-layered media and interactives are helping visitors get to know the world-famous Division, its soldiers and their stories, while also developing a better understanding of their own roles impacting today’s military.”
“Since we opened on August 26, our visitation is up by 30% and visitors are thrilled, many saying they had never really thought about how much we ask our soldiers to do every day around the world,” adds Paul Herbert, Executive Director at First Division Museum. “That is exactly the insight we wanted – to connect the visiting public with their soldiers and the missions they undertake in our name.”
Among the numerous media and interactive installations are large-scale touchscreens present life-sized soldiers telling their own stories. There is also a full-scale Blackhawk helicopter equipped with VR headsets that transport visitors directly into a house raid in Iraq, while boarding a Bradley fighting vehicle whisks them into a Gulf War battle.
There is also a First in War permanent exhibit, which honors the Division’s story from its 1917 creation through the Vietnam War. Here as well, the reimagined exhibit includes new graphics, thematic environments, and films amplifying epic soldier experiences from WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than 13 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia.