Museums | Exhibits | Shedd Aquarium |

Ships Gallery

Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago | 2016

The existing space was dated and no longer appropriate for a technology-focused institution. A tired white drop ceiling, florescent case lighting and worn treatments delivered a less than optimal guest experience.

What It Was

The Ships Gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry has been an old visitor favorite at the museum for years. Located in a hallway between two entrances to the museum and flanked by the automobile gallery and the museum’s dining hall, the majesty of the elegant ship models has long been impacted by ambient light. The design team was challenged to visually connect and create a visually smooth transition between the gallery and its neighbors.

What We Did

The existing space was dated and no longer appropriate for a technology-focused institution. A tired white drop ceiling, florescent case lighting and worn treatments delivered a less than optimal guest experience. Working within the parameters of an aggressive budget, Lightswitch designed lighting for all models, dioramas, and background graphics. We began by creating a mock up of a darker exhibit that would allow the ships to be featured. Small track heads frequently used for home lighting were an optimal solution for the existing alcoves without needing to change the cases. Lightswitch worked with the manufacturer to customize the fixtures for MSI’s needs. The result is a bespoke solution that had a high degree of control and flexibility. By dimming the LED fixtures, lifespans are extended even further, decreasing already low maintenance requirements. In the visitor space, color tunable lamps allowed us to control the function of every fixture. The floor is lit to create the impression of blue, gently rippling water while still addressing its role as an active walkway.

Why It Worked

Ships tell the evocative story of the wonder of water travel throughout history, and the magnificent collection of models has been transformed, all on a focused budget. The new gallery is a testament to the power of thoughtful and effective lighting design, and creates a memorable and evocative guest experience that has rapidly become a new visitor favorite.