The Rise & Fall of Prohibition
The job: document America's most colorful constitutional hiccup – the attempt to force sobriety on an entire country via the 18th Amendment. And, along the way, tell the story of what really happened when Americans could no longer manufacture, sell or transport intoxicating beverages.
"American Spirits, the Rise & Fall of Prohibition," was the second original show conceived and produced in Philadelphia by the National Constitution Center, and its most ambitious. The storyline for the exhibition mirrored the critically acclaimed best-seller "Last Call" by historian Daniel Okrent, who, at the outset, served as a consultant. The exhibition was curated (and made amazing) by Stephanie Reyer, VP of Exhibitions at the NCC.
My team and I were chosen at the cocktail napkin stage to help A) brainstorm individual elements in the show – apps, videos, dance floors, etc., and B) produce some custom scoring (using both jazz and Temperence hymns), as well as actor reenactments for certain elements. Once the show was under construction, we were given the task of marketing through digital and traditional channels.
On the left: the exhibit website, a few of the apps, the TV spot (made so different markets could tag as they saw fit) the extreme widescreen video, and the train story. TV was a challenge, given museum ad budgets (typically very low) plus the fact that all 1920s footage – the good stuff – is extremely low-res. We got around both with a split screen technique and great music: a 30-second rip-tearing 1920's all-original jazz piece with real horns plus some modern instrumentation, scored to action, from Chuck Butler at Baker Sound. I wrote and assembled the score and SFX for the widescreen video, produced in-house, which played in the exhibit's grand foyer upon entering the show. Hidden speakers behind and to the side of patrons helped lend the spooky "get ready" aura we were going for.
We also turned a train into a virtual speakeasy, which was another first for Philadelphia, and won a regional gold Addy in the process.
In the end:
The primary objective for the show, beyond ticket sales, was to create an exciting exhibition that could travel to other stateside museums to license and present under their own banners. And, as of this writing, and after breaking all attendance records and winning a 6-month extension in Philadelphia, American Spirits took St. Louis by storm – and was a bonafide hit at The MOHAI in Seattle.
Post analysis in Philadelphia showed:
The inside story:
American Spirits ran for six months (ending in April 2013) and was heralded as a major success. By the numbers:
1. Time spent in the exhibition was triple the national average.
2. Our show-opening video had the highest usage rate (85%) of any stop in the exhibition.
3. We created three iPad-centered activities. Nearly 2/3 of the visitors used at least one of them.
4. Three of the six “most engaging” elements — those that combined drawing power with holding power — centered on media created by HS+G.
5. Visitors who check out over half of a show’s components are called “diligent visitors.” Nationwide, that tag applies to about a quarter of museum visitors. At American Spirits, the number was 62%.
6. Our closing video was watched by nearly 2/3 of visitors and had the longest “dwell time” of any stop in the exhibition.
7. The slower visitors move through an exhibition, the better, because it means they’re engaging with exhibits. American Spirits’ “sweep rate index” of just 96 square feet per minute — less than 1/3 the national average — is considered exceptional.
8. Thus, we created both the element visitors used most, and the one they engaged with the longest, and helped the show open and close with impact.
Update: as of July 2016, "American Spirits, The Rise and Fall of Prohibition," had successfully completed the 5th leg of its national tour.
National Constitution Center:
American Spirits, the Rise & Fall of Prohibition website home page.
Copy to come.
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Source – https://vimeo.com/131842269
Vestibule Movie B
Source – https://vimeo.com/131843398
Train Movie B
Source – https://vimeo.com/131889259
New Prohibition Teaser Movie
Source – https://vimeo.com/162628582