Last Updated on Sunday, 05 August 2012 13:16 Written by Tom Krehbiel Saturday, 18 September 2010 16:20
The sculpture shown at the right stands near the entry to the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ. Indeed, it's called The Phoenix and is the creation of Belgian artist Louis Halleaux. The impressively large three-dimensional bronze rotates slowly on its base and each turn presents a viewer with impressions of the distinctive shapes of various musical instruments: plucked stringed instruments, the bells of the brasses, bows for the viol family, and more.
The museum, familiarly referred to as the MIM or sometimes simply as MIM, opened in April 2010. So far I've seen it only through website coverage and photos accompanying press releases. In such releases, the first things typically mentioned are some numbers. Here are some for the MIM:
- Total collection - 10,000 instruments and related artifacts
- Objects on display - 3,000
- Total exhibit space - 75,000 square feet
The collection of 10,000 is, of course, much more than a random accumulation of instruments. They have been carefully selected using criteria that include fine construction, makers' reputations, historical significance, special origin, and connections to famous performers.
And like most museums these days, MIM is more than a silent display of objects. The facility presents concerts, workshops, lectures, classes, and events called Museum Encounters. The Encounters program presents musicians in the museum galleries. These musicians perform for and interact with museum visitors in 30 minute (or so) programs. The Encounters form part of the museum experience on certain days and are included as part of the paid admission. They don't happen every day and they don't go on all day. Check the calendar at the MIM website.
Supporting patrons' enjoyment and understanding of the displays is one of the most ambitious installations of Sennheiser's guidePORT to date. Sennheiser started work on the system three years ago.
I'm sure you have used audio guide and narration systems in museums and similar institutions. If you haven't used guidePORT, you have an amazing treat in store.
Again, let's cite a couple of numbers to get started. We're talking 16-bit digital audio delivered to as many as 1,800 visitors at once, each with his or her own receiver, of course. As visitors enter MIM, they each receive a guidePORT unit with a personal set of earphones.
After that, it's all pretty much automatic. They don't have to continually enter codes or push buttons on exhibits to receive the appropriate programs.
As they move through the museum, their guidePORTs take note of their locations at any time and provide the appropriate soundtracks for the exhibits at which they have arrived. The soundtracks just sort of fade in and out as they move along. It's like having a highly knowledgeable personal commentator who moves discreetly with each visitor and seamlessly adjusts a narration to what that visitor is viewing.
The applications of the guidePORT system appear to be legion. The system can do something special in a room or in an entire city as well as in a museum
For instance, for a promotional event in a night club in Hamburg, ABSOLUT served a backdrop of the cool sounds along with vodka cocktails. Sennheiser's guidePORT turned the space into a neighbor-friendly silent disco.
The city of Campeche on the Yucatán peninsula sends visitors out on a city tour of discovery which includes 50 major sites. Each visitor takes along a guidePORT receiver and map and can plan his or her personal route.
Check out guidePort.com for more interesting applications and information.