Potion Designs Three Interactive Experiences for LA Museum of the Holocaust

Potion Designs Three Interactive Experiences for LA Museum of the Holocaust

Potion announced the completion of two interactive installations and one interactive device for the new Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park. In 2010, Potion worked with the Museum and interactive strategy consultant Variate Labs to design and fabricate a set of interactives that not only enhanced the museum visiting experience but did so in a way that respected the content at hand. The results, after a year of intensive design, content production, software development and fabrication, are a large-scale fluid interactive surface (Memory Pool), a field of interactive screens (18 Camps), and a portable touch-based guide to the museum (Spatial Audio Guide).

Memory Pool
Potion was commissioned by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust to develop and design the "Memory Pool" interactive table as the centerpiece for the museum's first gallery. A commanding presence in matte-black aluminum and crystal-clear half-inch glass, this large-scale interactive installation tells the intimate stories of thousands of families prior to World War II via personal photography and direct testimony.

At the center of the table, three light pools continuously flood the dark table surface with photos of individuals, families and related artifacts from the museum's collection. Up to fourteen visitors may approach the table at once. Upon doing so, they are presented with hundreds of historical photos floating before them, and occasionally sinking to the bottom of the deep black pool. Visitors may then pull one of the photos towards edge of the table, whereupon the story behind the photo is slowly revealed. Every photo is associated with a person's name, a country of origin, and a significant testimony by that person or a direct relative or friend. Having parsed this information, the visitor may choose to view photos in a collection that is related to the one at hand. For example, the visitor may choose to see photos from the same family, or country, or simply look at photos with similar themes.

All of the photos and information displayed on the "Memory Pool" table are stored in a custom content management system created by Potion. The database draws the mass of its content from a database belonging to the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation. Potion's database also stores photos and data about artifacts within the museum's collection. All of this information can be updated on regular basis by the museum staff.

The "Memory Pool" table has proven to be a true success with visitors of all ages. It is central not only to the gallery but to the conversations that take place there.

18 Camps
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust engaged Potion to develop and design 18 Camps, a field of united interactive displays within the gallery devoted to the darkest moments of the Holocaust. As the name of the installation suggests, each screen with 18 Camps embodies a specific concentration camp, giving it a unique voice in the space.

Given the nature of the content, Potion designed the touch-sensitive displays to be as simple as possible, placing emphasis on the power of the photography. Each screen features historical photographs of the camps, stories of victims, first-person accounts of survivors and statistic about each camp. Several of the screens also offer artwork and poems by survivors of the camp. There is also a section reserved for perpetrators from each camp, along with details of their iniquities.

18 Camps' minimal interface exists in the lower fifth of each screen within a translucent overlay above the full-screen photographs. Since the photographs exist on a single line, the visitor may view all of them simply by proceeding from one to the next. Along that line, photographs are grouped together within general categories, such as "victims" and "survivors". Visitors may jump directly to these photographs by touching one of the category labels along the bottom of the screen.

When the screens are not being used by a visitor, all eighteen displays sync with each other in a choreographed sequence of imagery and text, suggesting the camps' mechanical role within the Nazi machine. Parallel statistics roll across the suite of screens, followed by maps of the camps' locations, followed by stories of specific victims. The result is a gently-paced but nonetheless overwhelming display of the Holocaust's colossal yet distributed tragedy.

Spatial Audio Guide
Potion broke new ground with the handheld audio guide created for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust's new permanent home in Los Angeles' Pan Pacific Park. Unlike traditional museum audio guides, Potion's custom-designed device is the primary source of non-visual information within the museum and is recommended for all visitors. In fact, it is free to every visitor.

The palm-sized audio guide provides narrated descriptions for up to 100 artifacts in each of the museum's ten galleries. The guide also provides synced audio for a handful of video displays located throughout the museum. This feature is the first of a kind in a hand-held listening device, and even supports syncing with video presented within the Potion-designed interactive touchscreens.

The guide features a visual browser that allows visitors to browse and select curated content with the touch of a finger. There are two ways to access every audio clip. The guide offers a list-view for each of the ten galleries, so that visitors can quickly view the type of content within each gallery, and so that it is simple to move from one artifact to the next. In addition to the gallery view, the guide allows visitors to enter the four-digit code that is associated with each artifact on display.

Potion worked closely with the Museum's staff to create a system that was both visually appealing to visitors and easily manageable for curators. In order to maintain dynamic and fresh content, Potion developed an accessible content management system for museum staff, easing the museum's exhibit updates. Potion's checkout system for the one hundred guides allows visitors to easily pick up and return the handhelds with minimal staff support. A multi-lingual version of the audio guide will be released ensuring equal access for the Museum's diverse visitors.