adventures in museum-going

Day 6: Routers, printers & painters, oh my!

| posted by: phiden

3D-printed objects at the OEC.

Today, I walked through a wonderland of powertools, printers and substrates. We visited the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits Central, which is effectively a fabrication firm that counts all the varying Smithsonian institutions as its clients. Their workshop is a maker’s dream — or should I say workshops? Because the space is huge: it’s something like 50,000 square feet of power tools, 3D printers, vinyl in all colors of the rainbow, Plexi, plywood, shopvacs…and that’s just what I saw. The space is sectioned off by massive doors, so we couldn’t see it all.

We could, however, see the entire exhibit development process from model to crating, thanks to a SITES exhibit that was getting ready to ship. We were able to see the maquetes that were done early in the design process, and then we got to see the real thing as it was getting packed. That’s pretty awesome, especially when you couple it with a set of full construction documents and insights from the designer herself. It really drove home a lot of what we learned in theory in the two exhibit design and construction classes.

While I’m thinking about it, it turns out SITES needs interns. I got really excited for about a half a second — SITES seems like an interesting organization, the women we met who were crating the exhibit were energetic and enthusiastic — and then I remembered that I live on the wrong coast! But the trip through the shop left me convinced that I need to learn autoCAD, CNC software, and maybe lighting (though I have the National Gallery of Art presentation to thank for that) — somehow, I need to get into a fabrication shop!!

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