For the Tenement Museum’s newest permanent exhibition, we meticulously recreated a Chinatown dress factory, surreptitiously embedding technology into everyday objects to tell authentic, compelling stories in a way that wouldn’t detract from the setting.
We retrofitted an old tube to feature interviews of the actual residents who lived in the apartment over the last 100 years. Tour guides would invite a guest to turn on the TV and hear their story.
The frequency of Tenement tours required a solution to playing delicate, rare vintage records, so we retrofitted a turntable with sensors and a digital music player to ensure a theatrical experience that lasted for decades to come.
While immersive storytelling was critical to communicate this history, it was important to have the space still feel like a time capsule, and so we consequently employed projection (exclusively) to ensure that it would be embedded into the architecture and invisible when not activated. A full wall movie and a localized infographic are both visible here.
We disassembled and customized actual sewing machines used in Chinatown garment factories, employing capacitive touch and a pico projector in an effort to tell the stories of the workers who used them: touching the sewing machine triggers an interview to appear on the sewn fabric.
In addition to the sewing machines, a variety of other objects in the room were rigged to tell stories: food, silverware, toys (shown here), and even a vintage rotary payphone all came to life at the touch of a fingertip, sharing remarkable audio stories.