Electrosonic Systems Inc. completed an extensive installation for the New York Historical Society’s landmark “Slavery in New York” exhibition providing equipment for four galleries which have unique projection areas.
The exhibition, which spans two centuries from the 1620’s to July 4, 1827 when slavery was abolished in New York, runs October 7, 2005 to March 5, 2006.
Electrosonic had two upfront challenges. The first was dealing with an installation in a landmark building. When it was determined that the columns in the Great Hall could support neither a DL-1 moving projector nor an OFE Showlite 5000 projector, a lighting truss was constructed as a means to hang the DL-1. A second challenge was a six-week timetable to engineer the installation, purchase the equipment, install it, and program the AV system.
The exhibition starts in the Great Hall. There, the Showlite 5000 projects graphic treatments of statistics and facts about the Atlantic slave trade onto a sail-shaped screen accompanied by the sound of a ship cutting through the water. The DL-1 was programmed through ESCAN to project the same numbers and word graphics across the Great Hall floor, up to and under the sail.
Gallery 1 addresses the Atlantic slave trade and New York City. It also features a sail-shaped screen displaying five short videos describing the European reliance on slave labor in the conquest and settlement of the Americas. The screen can be seen from the corridor leading from the Great Hall thanks to the installation of a projection mirror system which bounces images from another Showlite 5000.
After passing through Gallery 2, which looks at Black New Amsterdam, visitors enter Gallery 3 where a Sanyo projector is suspended from the ceiling. This portion of the exhibition deals with The Tightening Vice of Slavery in British Colonial New York. Its centerpiece is a water well-shaped object with a white fabric surface. Visitors lean over to look down the well where they see a reverse POV shot looking up at a group of enslaved women who are talking about what their lives are like. Trips to the well offered slaves one of the few opportunities to talk among themselves.
The exhibition chronologically explores The Revolutionary War and The Struggle for Black Reform; Constituting a State with Free Black New Yorkers; Free Blacks in New York’s Public Life; and Freedom, But Only With Limits in Galleries 4, 5, 6 and 7, respectively.
Gallery 8 marks The Day of Jubilation when slavery was declared illegal in New York. Two Showlite 6000 projectors display a series of edgeblended images on a curved wall. The custom illustration starts as an empty streetscape, which, in the course of three or four minutes, begins to fill with former slaves celebrating their liberty. Finally, their images and voices fade and disappear leaving an empty streetscape again.
The exhibition concludes in Gallery 9, where three short videos explore how New Yorkers forgot this history of their important involvement with slavery and how it has been rediscovered in our own lifetimes.
Electrosonic also supplied the exhibition with Samsung 30" and Sharp 13" monitors and ELO touchscreens; Adtec Edge 1013 and Mirage MPEG II servers which act as playback devices; and Xenarc, Apple Mac G5 and Apple iMac computers. All of the exhibits have audio components: Electrosonic furnished Bose FS3S satellite speakers and Bose Model 15 Freespace speakers and equipped the Listening Stations, where visitors don headphones to hear, with Quadravox MP3 players, two-minute audio narratives about the last days of slavery and the first experiences of newly-emancipated black New Yorkers as well as the sounds of vendors on the city streets.
Boston-based KPC was the exhibit design company on the job.