Bishop Museum is the premier natural history museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Its new exhibition, Spineless Wonders: Rising From the Deep, explores the little-known world of marine invertebrates through both photographic and scientific research. Below, Designer Rachel Filbeck reveals how she merged art and science by using Rosco Custom LitePads as the key illuminant of the displays she designed for the exhibition.
With nearly 3,000,000 specimens, Bishop Museum houses the only collection in the world devoted solely to marine invertebrates of the Pacific. The design objective for this exhibition was to display specimens from the museum’s collection alongside the work of renown nature photographer, Susan Middleton. The first challenge we faced was to reconcile these different, albeit complementary, perspectives. Susan’s work features creatures found largely in shallower waters, while much of the research at the museum includes exploring the deeper parts of the ocean. Our team felt it was necessary to tell that story – how much exists in our oceans from top to bottom.
To do that, we decided to create depth displays to showcase the museum’s extensive collection of marine invertebrates. Around the perimeter of the gallery are Susan’s photographs, with a few smaller specimen displays peppered throughout. Larger displays featuring the five major phyla of invertebrates occupy the center of the room.
This design concept created the lovely challenge of displaying our specimens, which had lost all life and color, next to Susan’s stunning work of creatures that were photographed while they were still alive. To solve that problem, I decided to emulate Susan’s clean and modern feel in order to create an overall atmosphere where both her work and our specimens felt like they belonged.
An integral part of that solution involved selecting Rosco’s Custom LitePads to bottom-light our specimens. This lighting technique brought our dead specimens to life in a way that felt clean and modern, just like Susan’s photographs. We specifically chose Rosco Custom LitePads because they maintain a safe temperature for our specimens, even after they’ve been on for an eight-hour period. This was important to preserving the conditions of specimens that are kept in jars of alcohol. If the alcohol gets too warm, it compromises the integrity of the specimen inside.
To install the Custom LitePads, I created an aluminum frame that sits perfectly on top of each LitePad, which is supported by ¾” plywood and black iron brackets. Power access was drilled beneath the shelving unit so that each LitePad could be wired behind the painted backing of the display. This backing was made from ¾” Medex® MDF and mounted to the wall using French cleats made from 2”x4” board. The thickness of the cleat allowed room for the drivers that each display needed to power the LitePads. Power was then dropped through the center of each wall from our track system in the ceiling.
We selected a LitePad model with a warm white color temperature and filtered each Custom LitePad using three sheets of drafting vellum. It diffused the diodes and created a nice even glow that wasn’t blinding to look at.
If you’d like to learn more about Bishop Museum and their Spineless Wonders: Rising From The Deep exhibition, visit the museum’s website: www.bishopmuseum.org.