More than 12 million Elvis Presley fans have visited his Graceland estate in Memphis, TN, to pay tribute to the King since his death in 1977. From August to December of this year, a little bit of Graceland is coming to you. Mobile Graceland is a museum-quality traveling exhibit featuring authentic Presley memorabilia, much of which has never been displayed outside Memphis.

The collection is housed in an ultramodern 53'-long 18-wheeler. First along the interior promenade is a TCB (Elvis' motto, "Taking Care of Business") ring encrusted with nearly 16 carats of diamonds. Other highlights of the collection include a telegram Elvis sent to the Beatles, a record player Elvis kept in his bedroom at Graceland, a US Army jacket Elvis gave to Priscilla, a letter to Elvis from President Nixon, and Elvis' favorite guitar, a 1956 Gibson J-200.

The traveling exhibit was unveiled in Memphis on August 10, 2002, to kick off Elvis Week, a 10-day celebration of the superstar's life, marking the 25th anniversary of his passing. Mobile Graceland is the result of a collaborative marketing effort between Elvis Presley Enterprises, Harrah's, the FYE music retailer, and RCA Records/BMG. After its Memphis debut, Mobile Graceland began a 30-plus-city tour, including visits to 22 Harrah's casinos across the country, stops at 21 FYE stores, and New York City's Times Square.

Radiance Lightworks Inc. was contracted by Scenery West and mobile marketing company Out of Bounds to design a lighting system to meet the demands of this mobile museum. Specializing in lighting design for themed environments, attractions, architectural applications, museums, retail displays, exhibits, live events, and concerts, Radiance Lightworks has designed lighting for many live events and semi-permanent and permanent themed maze attractions.

Working from an interior design created by architect Lindy Roy of Roy Design and with continual input from Mobile Graceland concept creators cYclops Productions, a full-size mock-up of the trailer was fabricated by Scenery West in its North Hollywood shop. This allowed all project participants to provide input during the early stages of fabrication. Design issues and logistics of artifact placement and illumination were worked out while the actual trailer was going through the required structural modifications.

Lighting designer Clayton Alexander, principal of Radiance Lightworks, was faced with several challenges. In addition to conventional museum exhibit considerations such as light and temperature sensitivity, tamperproof hardware, and low-profile security systems, Scenery West and Radiance had to consider the effects of extended periods on the road. Securing artifacts, light fixtures, illuminators, and all support system components to withstand a tractor-trailer's continuous vibration and shock was a key factor in the design process. Alexander specified Ushio Ultraline lamps for the durability of the filaments.

Another important consideration was illuminating objects for viewing while eliminating all harmful ultraviolet rays to prevent fading or damaging the artifacts. Alexander employed 31 NoUVIR Spheri-Fol Eyeball Spot Luminaires, which have an outer diameter of only 1-1/4", powered by one 3mm fiber. The fixture has a 15-50º zoomable beam angle, allowing the LD to illuminate anything from a small comb to Elvis' rhinestone-crusted jumpsuit. Footcandle readings were a major consideration. Items such as the letter from Nixon have below 5fc of light; less sensitive objects made of plastic or metal have a maximum of 15fc. These light fixtures are powered by a single illuminator, also manufactured by NoUVIR.

Floor, ceiling, and walls are sheathed in black rubber to create a quiet, intimate atmosphere. Alexander's subtle area lighting incorporates six dimming zones controlling more than 20 low-voltage downlights to enhance this ambiance. Two 4'x8' light boxes and 16 smaller light boxes are used to display photographic images of Elvis' life; UV-inhibiting filters are installed in the light boxes. Video footage is displayed on five flush-mounted LCD screens. The AV system, with ambient audio in addition to the video, was coordinated and installed by Edwards Technologies.

The retail portion at the end of the exhibit naturally needed to be brighter. Alexander implemented several low-voltage MR-16 downlights with adjustable gimbals to illuminate the merchandise and retail counter space. These fixtures were lamped with Ushio Ultraline 10,000-hour lamps with integral front glass lens, eliminating 90% of UV emissions. Lightolier Ultra Shallow Remodeler Cans (model 303MRE), with a total height of only 3-1/4", were utilized to house the MR-16 gimbal rings, solving the challenge of extremely low clearance between the false ceiling and the air conditioning ducts attached to the trailer's roof structure.

Mobile Graceland will be on the road until mid-December. Visit for tour schedule and full production credits.

Photos ©Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.


Elvis Presley Enterprises

Co-Production Partner

Exhibition Concept and Design
cYclops productions, inc.

Creative Director/Art Director
Thomas Vasquez

Thomas Vasquez, Mark Obriski, Spencer Bagley, Christa Skinner, Stephen Wille, and Ellene Standke

Architectural Design
ROY Lindy Roy with Chris Whitelaw and Sanford Kwinter

Lighting Design
Radiance Lightworks

Electrical Engineering
California Industrial Electric

Fabrication and Electrical Installation
Scenery West