May 10, 2018 by Allison Tardif

Petersen MuseumLast week a group of AV professionals gathered at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles for the first-ever AVIXA Experience event.  These new events are intended to showcase innovative and well-designed technology integrations that use the power of AV to create outstanding user experiences. As the entire museum is a testament to artistry, innovation, and the people who have a passion for their craft, the Petersen Museum was the perfect place to kick-off the event series. 

The mission of the Petersen Automotive Museum is to explore and present the history of the automobile and its global impact on life and culture with a special focus on Los Angeles. The museum was renovated in 2015 with a $90 million budget and a new building façade designed by prestigious architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox. The interior space was completely redesigned by The Scenic Route, a firm that specializes in design consulting, fabrication, production and manufacturing for the entertainment industry.

Petersen Experience Event PanelThe day started with a panel discussion, moderated by Dan Goldstein, AVIXA’s Senior Vice President of Content and Communications, with those who designed, installed, and now maintain the technology at the museum including:

  • Joseph Conover, National Relationship Manager, Panasonic
  • Frank Janesh, Principal, The Scenic Route
  • Jason Thompson, Projection Designer and Video Consultant, PTX
  • Alex Rosales, Director of Technology, Petersen Automotive Museum

During the course of the discussion, a few themes emerged that revealed why and how the Petersen Automotive Museum has become such an excellent example of the harmonious convergence of space, content, and technology.

Solid Relationships and Early Planning

Petersen Museum displayOne unique aspect of the Petersen project (that may make other AV professionals a little jealous) is that the technology team and vendors were included very early on, in the development of the master plan, and are still embedded in the functioning of the tech two years after launch.

In his role at Panasonic, Conover manages relationships for any client that has an audience from museums to live events, including the Olympics. He explained that Panasonic saw the project at the Petersen Museum as an opportunity to be involved early on and introduce new technology. Often, a provider like Panasonic is only asked “spec” the tech after everything has been designed. But, in this project, they were strategically involved in the design process.

The Scenic Route was brought on in the very beginning of the renovation to contribute to the master plan and handle the project from start to finish. Janesh explained that the master plan gave them an idea of where they wanted to go but did not include all the details. Everything was a moving target because they did not know exactly what artifacts would be acquired in the future or what content the space might need to support. 

Petersen MuseumThompson shared that from his perspective as the lighting, projection, and video designer, being involved early was an advantage because he could set up test galleries.  They were able to test things like lighting conditions and projector brightness in advance rather than having to figure it out and adjust onsite. 

One of the challenges of starting so early is knowing where the technology would be two years in the future. That’s where having Panasonic involved strategically early on also proved to be an advantage. The team knew they company would be releasing integrated digital media projectors that don’t require receivers, so they could design with this new tech in mind before it was actually available.  By the time everything was installed, the tech was there.

Design for Flexibility

The goal was always to have a space that could easily be reconfigured to change out the exhibits frequently and easily to drive repeat visits to the museum.  They needed to have a flexible museum that could do almost anything. Network hooks were installed all over so when an exhibit changes, it can be replaced with a light, a projector, or a display. Everything is designed as building blocks to make changes to content easy and quick.

All the technology in the museum is network based with signals being sent over CAT-6 and utilizing Panasonic’s digital projectors that eliminate the need for receivers.  It’s also the first museum to integrate a new Panasonic technology that sends a projection to your smartphone using the museum’s app. 

Data Driving Decision-Making

The Petersen Automotive Museum has a strategic partnership with Microsoft which allows them to pull data from social media, ticket sales, and the AV system into one data analytics dashboard.  All the AV products ―from interactive flat panels to security cameras ―provide data to museum management through that dashboard.  The AV data helps to create heat maps that show how people are behaving inside the space that can drive future decisions about design and layout.  They can even parse the data demographically to see where people flow based on characteristics like age and gender. 

Rosales explained that the data revealed that the low-rider exhibit was the most popular area.  The Museum has since featured two additional exhibits on low-riders based on that insight. 

Playing a Supporting Role

The Petersen Automotive Museum is home to an impressive collection of culturally significant, and just plain cool, artifacts such as the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Ford Thunderbird from Thelma & Louise.  Bottom line ― the cars are the star of this show and the AV is cast in a supporting role.

Visitors to the museum can choose just how much they would like to be immersed in the AV, the technology is here to enhance the experience.  For example, the 162-foot projection wall near the entrance is there to set the mood and help visitors become immersed in the environment.  People can choose to watch it for however long they want ― they can take in what they want and disregard what they don’t. 

After the panel discussion, the group was treated to a tech tour of the museum led by some incredibly passionate car aficionados from the museum staff and joined by the panelists to answer their tech questions. 

I have to admit, before visiting the Petersen, I wasn’t much of a car enthusiast. But after viewing the impressive collection presented with just the right amount of tech “wow” to bring the stories of the artifacts to life, I left the museum with a better appreciation for the artistry and innovation that drive the automotive industry.

About Allison Tardif

Allison Tardif is Content Marketing Specialist at AVIXA.  She manages social media and content creation for the association's marketing and communications department.