National Archives Installation: Designing for Group Experience
Had the pleasure of updating one of our longstanding interactives, developed with Northern Light Productions, for the National Archives in DC this past week. “The Constitution in Action” is an hour long simulation/game in which students in schoolgroups take on the role of researchers looking for documents to support an urgent mission from the White House Communications Director, “Bob.” Students work in groups to find the documents, write about their findings, and record statements about them in audio.
When students return to the Briefing Room with Bob, they find that their research and narration has been compiled on the fly into a twelve minute documentary in their own voices, using Ken Burns style effects and dramatic background music, with rolling credits at the end. According to staff, participants are delighted.
Hats off to Northern Light Productions for creating a dramatic video wrap that stands the test of time without looking dated. Some of the other factors that I think contribute to its success as a group experience:
- NARA staff can customize the images and come up with themes for different groups: Civil War, Immigration, Civil Rights…
- Participants dress up for the simulation: wearing white coats, with white gloves available, and a cart to wheel the documents around
- The simulation takes place in several rooms — the doors to the archives open dramatically at the end of the video briefing
- Participants love seeing their work incorporated into a high end video
- I added a feature to record on the fly a video of the resulting production including students’ work and their own words, so it can be played back again after the visit in the classroom