Client: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Location: Jackson, MI, United States
Completion date: 2017
Communications Electronics Design (CED)
A 40’h interactive sound and light sculpture in the central atrium of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, MS.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum doesn’t shy away from difficult truths, like lynchings and murders. The museum’s exhibits also tell stories of individuals who took a moral stand and made a difference. Its galleries are arranged like spokes around a light-filled atrium in the center of the museum. The motion of visitors entering the atrium activates sensors, which in turn activate the suspended sculpture, “This Little Light of Mine.”
As one enters the atrium, the sculpture is illuminated from within by 6,000 LED lights which sparkle and move in waves through its blades, while a single voice sings the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine.” As more people enter the gallery, more voices join in singing, culminating in a rousing gospel choir filling the heights of the central atrium.
“This Little Light of Mine” is central to the mission of the museum. The dark stories of lynchings and imprisonment must be told, but they leave visitors in need of a positive, uplifting message for the future. “This Little Light of Mine” supplies that positive lift.
The museum’s designers worked for three years with the team at Transformit to create the highly complex structure and lighting needed to accomplish their vision. Monadnock Media designed and programmed the content and interactive elements. Communications Electrical Design engineered and installed the electrical components necessary to integrate Monadnock’s designs into the structure. Exhibit Concepts was chosen to oversee the entire construction and installation.
The design team experimented with scaled and 1:1 prototypes to assess the suitability of various components and the requirements necessary for integrating the electronic elements into the structure while maintaining the artistic integrity and intent of the project. These exercises guided decisions around many components, including Transformit’s choice of fabric, the design and fabrication of the custom hardware, and team’s choice of LED modules. The fabric structure and LED components were assembled on site and installed in segments in the fall of 2017. The museum opened on December 9, 2017.
During design, we learned that there had been no discussion of maintenance for the sculpture. Transformit devised an overhead canopy structure that allows the sculpture to be suspended from hidden chain lifts, so it can be lowered for periodic service. During installation, it was revealed that the atrium’s floor is raised to allow data cables to pass underneath. This left the floor too weak to support a lift needed to reach the ceiling, fifty feet above. Transformit’s installation team located the only lift in the state able to place its outrigger feet on safe supports.