Natural History Exhibit Allows Visitors to Examine Real Artifacts


University of Michigan Museum of Natural History


Ann Arbor, MI

Recently, the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History reopened to the public in a brand new building—and this November, a new exhibit which Ideum developed in collaboration with the Museum will be unveiled to the public. This experience will allow visitors to examine a range of artifacts and use them to trigger interactive stories about the collection on a custom enclosure.

This exhibit contains 25 unique artifacts, including a petoskey stone (Michigan’s state rock), early human hand tools, and fossils of Grypania spiralis, one of the oldest known examples of complex life. These fossils and other specimens are found on a nearby shelf in protective cases, each of which is outfitted with a unique RFID tag. When a visitor places the artifact on the exhibit, an interactive presentation is shown on the built-in touch display. Once this is launched, visitors can learn more about the object, see photos and videos, view a map, and even use the “examine” feature which challenges guests to find features specific to each artifact.

Ideum was fortunate to be able to work on just about every aspect of this interactive station. Collaborating directly with Museum curators Kevin Farmer and Kira Berman, Ideum helped develop profiles for each specimen, including descriptions about habitat, physical characteristics, and a unique story relating to each item. We also programmed the experience, including the RFID reader which recognizes the artifacts. In addition, we developed a content management system, or CMS, allowing Museum staff to easily change or update the exhibit with new information and images.

The exhibit uses a 49” 4K Ultra HD Ideum Inline multitouch display. Our industrial design team designed the cabinetry, and the exhibit itself was built in our new fabrication studio. Our diverse team truly enjoys the ability to mix the physical and digital in meaningful ways. By its very nature, this exhibit extends that concept, allowing visitors to interact with real specimens while exploring compelling media to dig deeper and learn more about the artifacts they are examining.

Ideum designed and built the custom cabinet.
Visitors can interact with the touch display and learn more about the object.