Tag Archives: museum model

Making an Historical Site Model of Ganondagan

Site Model of Ganondagan

This historical site model was created  for a museum in Western NY. The interactive display depicted Ganondagan,  a  community of Seneca people living in the early 1600’s. A large swath of land needed to be included on the site model, therefore the scale was quite small: 1 inch = 100 feet. With such a tiny scale to work with, the landscaping was particularly important, otherwise the model risked looking boring and monotonous. There were no buildings to focus attention on other than a cluster of tiny longhouses, and no major geological features to provide excitement.

The time of year the client wanted depicted in the model was early fall. Research  needed to be done to find the exact textures, shapes and colors which would realistically represent  this time period. The team at KiwiMill experimented with various materials to accurately represent grasses, trees, corn fields, and water at such a tiny scale.

Historical Site Model

The site model was designed to light up various areas of the landscape as well. The corn fields, wooded areas, water sources, walking paths and gathering of longhouses all needed to light up at the push of a button. LED strips were imbedded into the surface of the model and electronically connected to a control panel. The electronic knowledge required to get each area to light up correctly was complex.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

The topography base was made out of a block of foam, and programmed and cut with a CNC router in house. The slots for the LED lights were cut at the same time using the router. Once the foam base was cut and sanded, the LED lights were inserted, the wiring underneath was completed and the extensive landscaping added.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

When the model was completed, it was carefully wrapped and transported to the museum’s gallery for installation.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

The resulting historical site model provides an educational tool for museum patrons to interact with. Check out these videos:

 

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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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Museum Model Gives Local History Lesson

It’s not often that KiwiMill has the opportunity to work on a local scale model project. This past summer we jumped at the opportunity to contribute a historical museum model to Rochester, NY’s own Genesee Brewery Company. Owned by North American Breweries, this landmark location started in 1878, making it one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States.

As part of its evolution, the brewery recently opened the Genesee Brew House in a former packaging facility on its campus, complete with pub-style restaurant, interactive historical exhibits, gift shop and pilot brewery. Housed in this exciting new venture is a 20 foot square historical museum model of the two original breweries and surrounding neighborhoods circa 1915. Commissioned by our client, North American Breweries, its purpose is to provide a permanent record of the area for the community.

As with any historic model, a great deal of research was done by our shop prior to the construction phase. Sanborn and plat maps were used to discern the overall footprint of the model. Model makers walked the site as it stands today, and took photographs of existing structures and remnants.

Genesee Brew House Model ResearchGenesee Brew House Model Research

Old photographs provided by the brewery and the city library became the primary source of research material. These historic photographs helped determine the layout of the streets and buildings, styles and location of surrounding houses, as well as street lamp design and landscaping in the early 1900’s. Architectural drawings of the buildings and houses were then created in AutoCad. After this time-consuming phase, the actual build could begin.

Museum Model Museum Model

Museum Model

Museum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

 

 

 

The buildings and houses were scratch built primarily from laser-cut acrylic. Cars and wagons were drawn on the computer and 3D printed. A trestle and tracks were assembled from laser-cut plywood. Railroad cars were scratch built, along with accessories such as street signs, lamp posts, stairs and lawn decor.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

The landscaping included the river gorge created from sculpted foam and mounted on a plywood box bases. The water was made of plexiglass and a layer of liquid model water poured over it. Model trees were placed throughout the site. Dirt was collected locally and sifted and glued down onto the model, giving it a realistic, textured ground cover. Finally, weathering techniques were applied to various parts of the model to tie together the different elements: buildings, streets, landscaping, and accessories.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

All of this attention to detail produced a museum model that accurately portrays a time and place in history – the aim of  well executed dioramas. If done exceptionally well, a historic model will evoke emotions from the viewer as well. If given the opportunity, check out this project in person, and let us know if we met our goal to produce a lasting, meaningful, entertaining and educational display.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum Model

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Architectural Models Communicate.

architectural model

Architecture is probably the most frequently modeled item other than modes of transportation (trains, planes, boats and vehicles). Most people have encountered a scale model of a building, house, interior space or community at some point in their lives. Virtual 3D walk-throughs of structures are available with new technology, but nothing has replaced the usefulness, the appeal and the impact of a physical representation.

architectural model

Architectural models, like most scale representations, are used as a communication tool.  A quality scale model should deliver a highly effective message. The key to an outstanding architectural model, and satisfied clients, is first understanding the purpose the model is going to serve.  What do you want your model to say? What will it be used for? Architectural models are used for a variety of circumstances including:

  • Fundraising
  • Sales
  • Evaluating a design
  • Permit / Application approval
  • Planning and development
  • Display
  • Education / Training

There are sub-categories within these architectural model uses, as well as overlapping purposes. It’s up to the professional model maker to extract from the client the essence of what needs to be communicated with the project. This helps drive the type of architectural model that will be built, along with what scale to use.

Types of  architectural models vary just as their purposes do:

There are simple massing models where monochrome cubes or blocks might be used to represent buildings, emphasizing placement of structures and their context. Detail level on models of this type is typically minimal to accentuate the physical space in relationship to its surroundings.

architectural model

Site models depict buildings and the areas around them, such as roads, parking lots, landscaping and cars.

site model

site model

site model

site model

site model

Architectural models used for display are often very detailed and  include such things as lush landscaping, lighting, and other highly realistic features. A museum quality architectural model is expected to last generations, be made of the finest available materials and represent a master model maker’s most meticulous work.

architectural model

Interior models show exactly that – what’s inside a space. They may involve lift off roofs or side cut aways for viewing. They might have very detailed furniture, finishes and miniaturized accessories, or be a simple design that emphasizes lay out and flow of rooms.

architectural model

architectural model

   architectural model

Urban models typically depict larger areas, whether it be city blocks, part of a town or a whole community. Detail can vary greatly on these as well and is usually determined by the scale that was chosen for the project.

Landscape architecture models emphasise the trees, plantings, grasses as well as any structures, bodies of water and unique terrain features that might be included in the area depicted.

site model

Architectural dioramas attempt to tell a story visually. They include all the elements necessary to represent a place or moment in time. They may not be completely to scale, but depict objects in the background purposefully smaller in order to give the illusion of depth or distance.

museum model

museum model

Topographic models show the elevations, shapes and features of a particular land surface.

military model

There are other types of architectural models but the importance lies in matching the purpose of the model with its design.

Similarly, scale is chosen by determining what the model needs to convey. Two main questions need to be answered when determining the scale of an architectural model. How much area needs to be covered and how much detail needs to be shown?

When a large area is being depicted, such as a site map, the scale is usually smaller. This way more area can be displayed without the over all dimensions of the model becoming too unwieldy. Detail level may be lower, in part because things are less visible at a smaller scale.

If only one building is being depicted, the scale is usually larger. Detail on a larger scale model is much more noticeable and will have a greater visual impact.

architectural model

architectural model

When a model maker communicates well with a client, and exhibits superior model making skills, the resulting architectural model conveys the message that was intended. This is the outcome both model maker and customer strive for.

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Museum Models – Caretakers of the Past, Present and Future

museum model

Did you know that there are almost 18 thousand museums in the United States? Are you aware that zoos are classified as museums? The American Association of Museums (AAM) lists the  following  types of museums on their website:

  • Arboretum/Botanical Gardens
  • Art Museums
  • Children’s Museums
  • Historical House or Site Museums
  • History Museums
  • Natural History or Anthropology Museums
  • Nature Centers
  • Zoos
  • Science/Technology Museums
  • General Museums
  • Specialized Museums (such as Railroad, Military, African-American)

Did you ever wonder how they are funded? While many charge admissions, there are a fair number that are free-of-charge to visitors. Private charitable donations provide the largest percent of funding followed by admission charges (including gift shops and concessions), government funding (25%) and investment income.

For those interested in museum careers there are degrees offered in museum studies, historic preservation, public history and non-profit management. Of course museums require a host of services to develop, support and run their institutions. Things like  facilities management, public relations, institutional planning, retail services, membership & development, collections stewardship and human resources.

The most obvious feature of a museum is the exhibits themselves.  While some museums are known for their collections of original artifacts, many more use reproductions, display boards, dioramas, props, scale models, interactive kiosks and hands-on exhibits to educate and entertain their visitors. Exhibit companies design these spaces to maximize a particular museum’s goals, and model making companies are often called upon to create the actual objects that go in these spaces.

The  International Council of Museums (ICOM) defines these spaces as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

Model makers pride themselves on providing quality museum models that will hold up to the high standards of these institutions.

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