Minnesota History Center, St. Paul – 2006
Open House: If These Walls Could Talk was a highly interactive exhibit documenting the 150-year history of a real St. Paul residence. Each room in the house represented a different era in time. Visitors were encouraged to explore and, in doing so, discover stories from some of the 50 plus families who at one time occupied the house. Many of the multimedia elements were triggered through tangible interfaces and were often emulating era-appropriate technology, such as the lantern slide in the 1880s parlor.
Open House was on display for thirteen years at the Minnesota History Center. It was retired in the summer of 2019.
Award of Merit and WOW! Award, American Association for State and Local History
St. Paul Heritage and Preservation Award for Community Education
Producer, Editor, Sound Designer, Programmer, Media and System Design, Installation
(On staff with the Minnesota Historical Society)
The original occupants of the house were featured in this parlor, which was filled with interactives. Six lantern slides told the story of their immigration from Germany to the United States. Touching the keys on the piano triggered an unexpected sound of a woman saying, “Just don’t ask me to play,” supporting the surrounding story of her stage fright.
In the kitchen, stories centered around the Italian family who lived in the house at the time in the 1930s. Opening the stove played an oral history story about how they were going to feed an entire wedding party hosted at the house.
The dining room featured three stories illustrated with video and imagery in plates and enhanced with sound and lighting effects.
In the bedroom, visitors were prompted to sit on the bed, and in doing so, triggered a story about it continually falling down. At that point in the story, the bed dropped.
In one of the hallways, visitors discovered this opening where they could peer down into what looked like a basement and hear stories of how different occupants of the house used it. The illusion was so convincing, the museum director at the time thought we had actually cut a hole into the floor.
The final room in the house depicted the Hmong family who lived there in the 2000s. A media presentation in the window and on an era appropriate television told their harrowing story of fleeing their war-torn homeland in Laos and immigrating to the United States.