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Worcester Historical Museum: An Interactive Redesign of the Fuller Gallery

History connects the inhabitants of any given locale with a common resource and background that serves not only to connect individuals with each other, but with the community that they live and grow within. The Worcester Historical Museum, located at 30 Elm Street, Worcester, MA is the sole authority on the history of New England’s second largest city. From its humble beginnnings as the Worcester Society of Antiquity in 1875, the museum evolved just as frequently as the city of Worcester, all the while encompassing thousands of stories and artifacts to chronicle the progression of the city’s diverse legacy. The museum today seeks to continue attracting visitors with unique and engaging exhibits that facilitate a higher level of understanding of Worcester’s history.

At the forefront of the Worcester Historical Museum’s Fuller Gallery is an exhibit paying tribute to Worcester’s diverse and voluminous industrial history. This exhibit, titled In Their Shirtsleeves contains a variety of artifacts and stories centered around a visual timeline that spans nearly 300 years of working heritage.

In keeping with recent museum exhibit design trends, the Worcester Historical Museum began an initiative to move their galleries towards an interactive and engaging experience. In 2013, the Alden Family Gallery underwent a full redesign with the help of the Boston Children’s Museum design team. The overwhelming success of the new interactive gallery solidified the museum’s desire to continue implementing new interactive designs throughout the entire museum.

Our team built upon the work of several other Worcester Polytechnic Institute student groups that worked at the Worcester Historical Museum. Backed with extensive research and a variety of analysis tactics, our team created:

  • An interactive prototype design for an exhibit featuring David Clark Company’s Full-Pressure Suit (The predecessor to Neil Armstrong’s suit on the 1969 moon landing)
  • An interactive prototype design for an exhibit featuring Joshua Stoddard’s steam calliope
  • A searchable database for the museum library’s collection of Worcester city directories (1844-Present)
  • A detailed Next Steps outline for the museum to continue the work of our team during the IQP term

Project Sponsor: Worcester Historical Museum

Mr. Wallace, more commonly known as Bill, is the Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum. Bill has a strong role in the Worcester community, and is also the chairman of Worcester’s Hope Cemetery Commission and co-founder of the Friends of Hope Cemetery. After more than 30 years working with the Worcester Historical Museum, Bill is one of the most prominent and reliable sources of information regarding any facet of Worcester’s diverse history.

Ms. Bumpus, known amongst the Worcester Historical Museum staff as Vanessa, is the Exhibitions Coordinator for the Worcester Historical Museum. Although she attends to a myriad of unique tasks each day at the museum, her efforts focus around the continued success of the exhibits within the WHM. With more than ten years with the WHM, Vanessa has experience with museum exhibits of all shapes and sizes, especially those tailored to the city of Worcester.

Student Researchers

Ali Fuat Becan is a Junior at WPI studying Electrical and Computer Engineering and Music. He is skilled at music, performing and composing musical pieces, as well as creating digital sounds using computers. He enjoys solving mathematical problems as well. His skill level with music and aesthetical analysis also enable him to be open-ended at redesigning interactive exhibits with the Worcester Historical Museum.

Matthew Harrington is studying Management Information Systems at WPI and much of Matthew’s time is tied up with schoolwork and his love for the game of basketball. Having grown up down the street in Shrewsbury, Matt is excited to be working on a project where he can give something back to the city of Worcester.

Keith Lundgren is a Junior at WPI studying Mechanical Engineering. He is ecstatic to be working with the Worcester Historical Museum in bringing the unique stories of Worcester’s diverse industrial history back to life, where he plans to utilize his skills in computer aided design/modeling to help incorporate interactivity.

Kyle Orfan is a Junior at WPI studying Management Information Systems. He enjoys history and the community that surrounds Worcester, making the Worcester Historical Museum a great place to put his skills to work.

Goal and Objectives of the Fuller Gallery Redesign

Our overarching goal for the project is to work closely with the Worcester Historical Museum staff in the continuation of establishing the legacy of the museum as a valuable resource to the local community and connecting with all individuals invested in the history of Worcester. We plan to accomplish this goal through an invigorating redesign of the Worcester Historical Museum’s In Their Shirtsleeves exhibit through the use of interactivity and online databases. Our team plans to collectively focus our efforts on several key objectives to accomplish this goal during our time with the museum. These objectives are as follows:

  1. Develop a digital and accessible database that will allow museum staff and visitors to access the city records of Worcester dating back to 1844.
  2. Develop an interactive and engaging design for the David Clark Full Pressure Flying Suit exhibit that connects to other space related highlights of Worcester’s industrial history such as Robert Goddard and modern rocketry.
  3. Develop a new approach for the steam calliope exhibit that incorporates new technology and sensory interactivity.
  4. Create a detailed and specific “Next Steps” outline for the museum staff to reference in the continued redesign of the exhibit.
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