Benjamin Franklin Museum

Four animated films and two touchscreens honor the legacy of Philadelphia's favorite Founding Father

Services

Illustration, Animation, Projection Mapping, Touchscreens

When the Benjamin Franklin Museum in Philadelphia was re-envisioned and re-designed, Bluecadet was brought in to create six media experiences that illuminate the story of the famous Founding Father. Highlighting Franklin’s wit, inventiveness, and personality, the museum engages visitors of all ages with interactive exhibits and interpretation.

Intergenerational accessibility and historical accuracy were priorities for the project. With this in mind, we created four animated films and two interactive touchscreens for the museum. We used historical references with contemporary appeal for all custom 2-D and 3-D animations, sounds, and interactions.

Introductory projection

As visitors enter the main exhibition, they are introduced to Benjamin Franklin through a wall-size animated projection featuring the man and his many accomplishments. We based the dynamic animation on Charles Turzak’s book of woodcuts—bringing the prints to life and creating original illustrations to match and supplement Turzak’s work.

Evocative and atmospheric, this video sets the tone for the exhibit, striking a balance between playfulness and historical references. Visitors are instantly immersed in Benjamin Franklin’s world of exploration and experimentation.

Wedderburn projection

This compelling projection reveals a critical moment in Franklin’s life, when he appeared before the British Privy Council and was publicly humiliated. Visitors witness this moment, entering into Franklin’s memory through animation and sound. A life-sized figure of Ben Franklin himself stands nearby, reinforcing the sense of witnessing history through Franklin’s eyes.

Visitors peer into a small enclosed area, where the hearing is projected onto the wall. As the story continues, the angry crowd keeps hurling insults, building to a crescendo. Viewers get an emotional, absorbing perspective on one of Franklin’s most challenging and pivotal moments. Based on prints by Charles Turzak, the animation is reminiscent of 18th-century woodcuts brought to life.

"We were really careful about creating interactive experiences that extend the content. There was a consciousness that the tech tools had to be enduring and that the technology is really in service of the content."

Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet CEO

Armonica interactive

Ben Franklin invented the Armonica, an instrument played by running one’s fingers over the rims of rotating glass bowls. We created a digital version to help visitors engage with and better understand Franklin’s musical invention, and to complement the historic Armonica on display next to the interactive.

Visitors “play” the Armonica interactive as they would the actual instrument—touching their fingers to colored bands, each of which produces a note. To create an authentic sound, we recorded real Armonica notes for each band.

Users can choose to improvise with the instrument or follow along as the interactive guides them through one of two songs. The simple, direct interface is accessible for people of all ages and musical skill levels, who can explore and play at their own pace.

Benjamin Franklin’s house interactive

The Benjamin Franklin Museum stands adjacent to the site of Franklin’s home, but unfortunately the house itself is long gone. This touchscreen interactive gives visitors a glimpse into what the house may have looked like.

Visitors can fill rooms in the virtual house with objects that historians know were there, based on family records and correspondence; these objects include furniture, artwork, and housewares. As visitors select an object to place into each room, they review the documentation historians used to determine that Franklin owned each item.

By putting visitors into historians’ shoes, this interactive gives visitors a sense of how scholars put together small pieces of information to create the big picture of a place, event, or person. In addition to getting a sense of Franklin’s home, visitors can participate in the process of recreating history.

Franklin’s Library Projection

Franklin was a prolific writer, and his writing is known as much for its intelligence as for a folksy, irreverent sense of humor. To convey this aspect of Franklin’s work and personality, we created a series of animated vignettes based on excerpts from his autobiography.

Visitors take a break from the busy exhibition in this semi-enclosed area, which evokes Franklin’s library. The projection on the far wall makes the visitor feel as though he or she is in the room with Ben Franklin, who sits writing at his desk.

The Turzak-inspired animation is paired with audio of an actor reading from Franklin’s autobiography. Playful yet sophisticated, the animation style appeals to children and adults alike. We added open captioning to ensure that the narration was accessible to all.

Legacy Video Wall

This large-scale video wall provides a sense of closure by highlighting Franklin’s ongoing legacy. The film plays on four coordinated 42” screens, located in the exhibition’s exit area. Here, visitors can sit and reflect while they watch this evocative, animated video loop.

We created 3-D illustrations and elegant transitions that honor Franklin’s influential autobiography. This book, which has been translated into countless languages and even made into movies and comics, was Franklin’s way of ensuring that his legacy would long outlive him—as it certainly has.

Results

HOW Interactive Design – Kiosks

Horizon Awards – Gold, Interactive

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