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Making Historical Models – A Realistic Seneca Longhouse

KiwiMill was honored with the opportunity to construct two major historical models for the Seneca Arts and Cultural Center this past summer. The Seneca Arts and Cultural Center is a newly installed interpretive museum located on the existing Ganandogan State Historical Site in upstate New York. This historical site was once the home to thousands of Native American’s known as the Seneca people. Here their vibrant community, traditions,and culture are conveyed by living Seneca people telling their own story of the past 2,000 years.

The Seneca Arts and Cultural Center includes a gallery space that houses two historical models commissioned by our client. One model is an 11 foot long longhouse and the other is an architectural site model of the Ganandagon property as it existed over 300 years ago.

historical models

These historical site models were an exciting endeavor for the model shop. Model makers typically deal with precision, scale and details in their building projects. However artistic sensibilities are crucial for museum model work and KiwiMill prides itself in the ability to blend these two aspects. In addition to model making craftsmanship and artistry, historical models require a great deal of research and collaboration.

Longhouse Model

The longhouse model needed to look realistic as well as be historically accurate. The large scale of the model (11 feet long) meant that the materials used for fabrication needed to be authentic and natural where ever possible. Real sticks were procured for the longhouse frame and were tied together with actual leather strips in a similar fashion to Native American construction.

The model blankets were hand woven.

historical model of longhouse

The paper chosen for the bark walls needed to be the right weight, texture and opaqueness. The dyes used to color the paper were chosen to closely resemble Elm bark.

historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse

The sculptures of food had to be formed and painted with realistic detail. The furs used were chosen for their scale and texture. The weapons were made from wood and metal, just like the real objects.

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Adding to the challenge, the longhouse would not fit through the gallery doors in one piece. It needed to be partially pre-assembled at the shop and then transported to the site. There the assembly needed to be finished in a short amount of time before the museum’s grand opening. All this needed to be done with out the use of artificial fasteners or obvious seams.

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

The longhouse included electrical wiring. Portions of the this historical model needed to light up as individual vignettes. The longhouse model has to integrate with the existing base at the museum and installed correctly so that each portion lit up when the correct button was pushed.

The longhouse model installed on site with figures added:

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse historical model of longhouse

Up Next: Part 2 – Site Model of Ganondagan

 

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Summer Intern at the Model Shop

Summer is winding down and KiwiMill model shop does not want to say goodbye to its intern, Devin. One of the projects in the shop the past couple of months has involved the construction of a 9 ft long Longhouse Model. Devin has been an integral part of this project.

A longhouse is a type of long, narrow, single-room dwelling used by groups of people in various parts of the world. The particular design currently being constructed at our model shop is a Seneca Bark Longhouse developed by the Haudenosaunee people of Northeast America.

Devin has been working under the instruction of the KiwiMill team, collecting materials, fabricating these pieces and assembling them into Longhouse walls. Eventually this fully constructed model will end up in a museum opening in October, 2015.

This hands on experience at the model shop will help Devin with his long term goals in the fields of engineering and design. KiwiMill has been very excited to be a part of this internship and hope to continue this relationship into the school year.

Here is some of Devin’s work:

model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop

 

 

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