Washington, D.C. (June 12, 2017)—Since the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture opened last September, it has attracted more than a million visitors to see its artifacts and multimedia presentations.
Exhibit designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates tapped SH Acoustics, with whom RAA had previously collaborated. The team also included engineering firm Electrosonic; museum systems specialists Design and Production, Inc., which handled fabrication, integration, and installation; and key content developers.
SH Acoustics president and principal consultant Steve Haas employed numerous Renkus-Heinz ICONYX-series loudspeakers across the permanent exhibits’ 85,000 square feet: “The spaces are enormous, and we had to control sound in many overlapping areas, so we had to pull every trick we knew and some we couldn’t imagine we’d utilize. Renkus-Heinz ICONYX loudspeakers gave us the beam-steering technology and high-end audio quality we needed.”
Sound for the videos is stereo, rather than surround, because the gallery theaters are so open. “We used tricks with delayed stereo to achieve immersive environments without leaking to larger areas,” relates Haas. “Renkus-Heinz ICONYX IC8-R-II and IC16-R-II loudspeakers were our choice for front program speakers because we could use their beam-steering technologies to precisely place audio with minimal leakage between exhibits and spaces. And we used them in unique ways.”
Renkus-Heinz systems are also employed in the fourth-floor Culture Galleries, which show African Americans’ influence on music, visual arts, theater, and dance. “There’s a wide open theater with a 360-degree elliptical screen overhead,” relates Haas. “You sit on benches or stand in the middle and view a custom production that wraps around you, which is very dynamic. To make stereo audio feel multidimensional, we placed six IC16-R-IIs behind the elliptical screen. Each array provides specific area coverage. We created enough of an overlap that we get even coverage, yet it feels like some sounds are present and some are distant.”