One week after dropping the final stainless-steel “ribbon” into place on the exterior of the building, the Petersen Automotive Museum announced plans to utilize interactive technology throughout the new interior.
The museum’s executive director, Terry Karges, said the interior will carry three major themes: history, industry and artistry. The most prominent way the museum will convey those themes will be through new technological innovations, such as driving simulators and panoramic video walls.
The museum also announced the Drago brothers will be the museum’s restaurant and catering service. Karges said all four of the brothers have never joined together for one deal.
As opposed to a more traditional museum model with a text display on a stand or a wall with information about an exhibit, the innovations the Petersen will use allow for more storytelling and interaction, Karges said.
“This will be all that more entertaining,” he said. “Using modern technology to tell a story, we can get more information to people in an easier way.”
A key piece of the new technological experience for patrons will be “augmented reality,” which will be used for an educational program on the museum’s second floor. Characters from the Disney and Pixar movie “Cars” will serve as teachers and guides for a new exhibition space that will be called the “Cars” Mechanical Institute.
While guests look through a “CARSpad” mobile device, “Cars” characters will appear on screen to provide information on the principles of automotive design and engineering, based on what the tablets’ cameras are viewing. Karges said the Petersen already has the recordings finished for Owen Wilson and his character Lightning McQueen, and Larry the Cable Guy and his character Tow Mater. The museum is working on getting more characters involved. The room will also be home to a full-sized Lightning McQueen vehicle.
A new mobile-device app will utilize geo-locating beacons. So visitors can receive self-guided tour information relevant to their location in the museum. Children can go on a treasure hunt and the app will notify them how they are doing, Karges said. The app will keep score of points that can go toward winners building their own virtual car.
The Mechanical Institute room will also have six interactive displays that can teach children how cars work. The six displays will be each for different subject areas such as engines, tires, transmission or how motion is created.
“It gives us the opportunity to talk to kids using the technology they are used to, and in a more entertaining way,” Karges said.
The museum will also feature eight driving simulators, provided by Forza Motorsports, a series of racing video games. Visitors will be able to race and compete on simulations of real racetracks. For example, next June during the “24 Hours of Le Mans,” a sports car race held annually since 1923 in France, racers in the Petersen will simultaneously be getting ready to compete virtually as if they were on the same track.
The museum that previously had 10 flat-screen televisions will now feature 1,600 overhead LED lighting fixtures, 45 Panasonic projectors, 43 interactive touch screen kiosks, 42 LED storytelling monitors, an eight-foot-by-20-foot LED billboard, and three projection walls that are at least 130 feet long. To do that, the museum will use more than 68 miles of cable.
Those ingredients will help the museum showcase 22 new galleries. In the Hollywood Gallery, films and television shows will be projected alongside the 10 cars that were featured in them. The Motorsports Gallery will feature a 130-foot, 180-degree projection wall, which will allow visitors to virtually ride in the fastest racecars of all time.
A new custom car elevator is planned to will give staff coveted access from the basement to the third floor, allowing for more display space. For 20 years, staff switched cars out from the vault to the display room floors by pushing them up a ramp, Karges said. They were also able to lift cars by crane to put them on the fourth floor, but the museum was never able to feature cars on the third floor.
“It’s approximately a 30 percent increase in display space, and it will be way safer,” Karges said.
The new centerpiece of the interior will be a three-story spiral staircase. It took 21 tons of steel and approximately 12,000 labor hours from drafting to installation, Karges said.
Although he joked that Petersen staff may not sleep between now and the museum’s opening day in December, the chief marketing officer Adam Langsbard said Petersen employees have a “kind of really fantastic nervous energy.”
“It’s a feel-good energy,” he said. “We know we have a ton to do and the countdown clock doesn’t stop.”
Langsbard said along with the Le Mans racing experience, he’s mostly looking forward to the looks on visitors’ faces when everything is in place.
“When we are within the excitement of opening night, it is almost like giving birth to a child, having that transitional moment from nervous energy to pride,” he said.
Langsbard said the involvement of outside companies and partners, like Microsoft, AAA, Lucas Oil and Rolex has been special to him.
“Having those outside forces that aren’t so car-centric be so involved with us is a real testament to what we’re building and doing here,” he said.
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