The Field Museum in Chicago is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Since opening in 1894, it has grown to contain over 40 million artifacts — though the collection on display is less than 1% of their total inventory. There is an expansive area underground and outside of public view that holds 99%. There, scientists are telling the stories of history using pieces of history that are literally and figuratively buried.
As part of the in-house design team at the museum, I designed responsive websites and interactive touchscreen displays for exhibits to help scientists tell those stories.
Hundreds of scientists at the museum regularly conduct research all over the world. Expeditions at The Field Museum was part of an initiative dedicated to following those scientists as they explored, understood, and protected the planet's diversity of plants, animals, and cultures.
Users could watch video reports of their adventures, check out their weekly blogs from the field, browse galleries featuring photos of their findings, and track their research through interactive experiences.
Each hall of the museum has a unique focus. The Department of Zoology curates the Bird Hall and needed a digital space that matched the aesthetics and contents of the physical space. The website I designed and developed (the very first responsive website for the museum) was the digital version of the Bird Hall, complete with collections from the hall and research from zoologists.
The majority of visitors we surveyed used Google Maps to get to the museum. Once those visitors arrived, paper maps showed them how to navigate the building. At this time, Google was in the early stages of developing indoor maps. I contacted the Google Maps team and was able to add The Field Museum to a pilot program along with a handful of other buildings.
With a team from Google, we walked the halls and exhibits to build the geolocation data necessary for Google Maps to track each zone. After it was released, visitors could find their way around the museum with the same app they used to get there.
The release of the iPad created a whole new way for visitors to experience the museum. Our team designed touchscreen interfaces for exhibits so visitors could listen to audio clips of animals, watch animated lifespans and migration patterns, visualize what their lives would be like in other areas of the world and more.
An emerging technology at the time, we worked with engineers from the exhibits department to fabricate steel casings that held each iPad in specific areas along each route. This interactive piece of a physical space created an environment that was more playful and engaging while still being educational.