Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
Green Gables, the home of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s fictional character Anne Shirley, is an international tourist destination in Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. The new Green Gables Heritage Place was built to modernize the offerings on the site of this famous home, including an exhibition that appeals to visitors of all ages from around the globe. Interpreting Montgomery’s vivid imagination through modern design details, family friendly interactives, and compelling historical and contemporary stories, the new facility provides a one-stop resource for visitors who want to tour the site and learn more about the author, the character, and the setting.
Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, PEI, 2019
Exhibit Space: 4,700 square feet
Nancy Russell, “New Green Gables interpretive centre puts focus on L.M. Montgomery, CBC News (20 June 2019)
Canadian Immigration Gallery and Pier 21 Gallery
The new Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 tells the stories of Canada's immigrants and the history of Pier 21 as an important gateway to this nation. From the time of the first European traders and settlers to the waves of immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, immigration has had a profound effect on Canada. The Museum’s mandate, to foster public understanding of the experience of immigrants and to highlight the contributions they have made to our ever evolving culture, economy, and way of life, is brought to life on the exhibition floors in two galleries: the Pier 21 Gallery and the Canadian Immigration Gallery.
The Pier 21 Gallery tells the stories of the one million immigrants who came through this marine gateway to Canada from 1928 to 1971, and the people who worked and volunteered at Pier 21. This exhibition space incorporates the historical Pier 21 building and Origin Studios used the wood and painted steel present in the interior as part of our design language. The Canadian Immigration Gallery is a vibrant new exhibit space and in addition to telling important stories and histories through artifacts and graphics, visitors can access the Museum's oral history collection through a number of interactive story stations.
Both exhibitions foreground the first person voices of new and old Canadians through the Canadian Museum of Immigration's rich oral history collection, giving visitors a snapshot of the people who have contributed to the richness and diversity of Canada.
This exhibit won Gold for Best Museum Environment in the Event Marketer Experience Design Awards, 2015.
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax, NS, 2015
Exhibit Space: 18,000 square feet
“Canadian Museum of Immigration Reopens Following Expansion,” CTV News Atlantic (25 June 2015)
“Halifax’s Pier 21 Museum Officially Reopens to the Public,” CBC News (23 June 2015)
Natasha Pace, “Canadian Museum of Immigration Reopens Following $30 Million in Renovations,” Global News (25 June 2015)
Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou, Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery
When the First World War broke out in Europe in the late summer of 1914, the small dominion of Newfoundland responded by raising its own regiment to send overseas, the venerable “First 500.” The Newfoundland Regiment, which initially saw action in Gallipoli, was decimated at the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, part of the Somme Offensive, on July 1, 1916. Of the more than 700 men who went “over the top” that morning, only 68 answered roll call the following day. July 1 has become an important day for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to remember and reflect on the sacrifices of those young men and all those who came after them.
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery’s exhibition not only tells the story of this tragic battle and the Regiment, but also the stories of the men and women who were instrumental on the home front and in non-combat roles overseas. It is both a personal and comprehensive look at Newfoundland during the First World War and the symbols and stories from this period that still inform the identity and landscape of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Origin Studios and fabrication partner Holman Exhibits created a space that accommodates both the personal and political stories of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians while also conveying the sacrifices of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Materials and colour palettes for the exhibition were drawn from the materials of the day, including the wool uniforms, wood and steel structures, and colours from military and civilian uniforms and badges. The innovative modular graphic panel design will allow The Rooms to update and switch out panels in the future as new stories and artifacts are brought to the museum by the families of First World War participants, keeping the stories alive and ever changing.
The exhibition opened at The Rooms on July 1st, 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
The Rooms Museum, St. John’s, NL, 2016
Exhibit Space: 6,500 square feet
A three-dimensional virtual walkthrough of the exhibit is available on The Rooms' Great War Exhibit website, which Origin Studios designed. To experience the tour, please go to http://theroomsgreatwarexhibit.com/en/virtual-tour.
Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou was one of two finalists for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Museums: The History Alive! Award for 2017.
Garrett Barry, “Huge Response to The Rooms Regiment Gallery on Opening Weekend,” CBC News (3 July 2016).
Louis Power, “Princess Royal Dedicates Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery,” The Telegram (1 July 2016).
“Royal Newfoundland Regimental Gallery Unveiled at The Rooms,” VOCM (1 July 2016).
The Husky Energy Gallery (From This Place) and The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery (Here, We Made a Home)
The Rooms, Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier cultural institution encompasses its Provincial Archives, Art Gallery and Museum. This innovative centre shares the province’s rich cultural identity with local, national, and international audiences. In 2011, Origin Studios won an international competition to collaborate with The Rooms curatorial team in the development of a new permanent exhibition about the peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the late 1700s to present day.
This complex project explores the lives and cultures of the Innu, Inuit, Mi’kmaq and the people of NunatuKavut, as well as descendants of European settlers. In addition to presenting stories of place and history, the mezzanine level exhibition explores significant events, individuals and traditions that have shaped this fascinating part of the world. The exhibit environment uses the plank building style of local architecture, in an attempt to capture the texture and nuance of the province. The effect is rugged, welcoming, colourful and unpretentious, much like the people of the region.
This exhibit received the 2014 Canadian Museums Association’s Award of Outstanding Achievement in Exhibitions.
The Rooms Provincial Museum, St. John’s NL, 2013
Interpretive Planning & Exhibit Design
Exhibit Space: 9,500 sq. ft.
Origin Studios worked with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, to complete exhibit design and development for the RenaissanceROM project. Our involvement began with interpretive planning and conceptual development, and ended with detailed design.
The design language and communication strategy developed for this project was intended to serve as a bridge between the Royal Ontario Museum’s renovated heritage galleries and the new galleries located in the Libeskind-designed expansion. Our approach was to reverently emphasize the artifacts themselves, placing them at centre stage, unencumbered by lengthy interpretation or encroaching design elements. This elegant solution is both sensitive and deliberate, allowing even the most minute detail to be appreciated. The presentation style highlights the tactile and visual qualities of each object, striking a powerful balance between the didactic and aesthetic experience.
The Origin Studios team worked in collaboration with project leaders Haley Sharpe Design (Leicester, UK), as well as curatorial and conservation staff, to develop ethnographic, decorative arts and natural history displays. This project presented some exciting challenges. The physical structures that emerged from our process are versatile enough to support everything from a massive dinosaur or woolly mammoth to the tiniest Chinese carving—while the visual language is powerful enough to effectively bridge the contemporary Libeskind addition and the original 19th-century building. These significant exhibits speak to the museum’s varied audiences by fusing academic integrity, contemporary design, entertainment, and education.
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON, 2002 - 2006
Exhibit Space: 175,000 sq. ft.
Origin Studios co-led the permanent exhibition design for the Canadian War Museum, creating immersive and compelling exhibits about the military events that shaped this country’s history. Themes range from the prehistoric to the contemporary, involving intense and beautiful narratives from both home and abroad. The approach to story telling is layered and often dense, in order to ensure the weighty subject matter is accessibly conveyed. In this elaborate and complex exhibit hall, artifacts range from the massive to the delicate—from intimidating military vehicles, to precious medals and fragile archival documents. In designing the spaces we introduced a deliberate interplay between the graphic panels and the building architecture. The result is a thoughtfully composed, cohesive series of exhibitions where shape and structure influences the visitor experience. While some of the exhibit spaces are inviting, comfortable and harmonious—others are tense, combative and uncomfortable.
The museum and its displays serve as a tribute to all who’ve fought for our freedom, as such we felt it imperative to share as many stories as the walls could hold. The challenge and triumph came in doing so respectfully, without compromising the intensely personal and emotional aspects within. As a result, the design plan accommodates multiple levels of information carefully arranged in thoughtful hierarchy. The exhibitions boast well over two kilometres of graphics, 2000 photographs and more than 250,000 words—a visual celebration, and undoubtedly our most complex exhibit project to date.
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON, 2001 – 2005
Exhibit Space: 76,000 sq. ft.
The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route
The Lost Dhow exhibit is based on the cargo recovered from a wrecked ninth-century Arab trading ship discovered off the coast of Belitung Island, Indonesia, in 1998. The exhibit, jointly organized by the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Aga Khan Museum, documents this remarkable archaeological find and sea-based trade between the Tang Empire and the Abbasid Empire, which together influenced an area stretching from the East China Sea to North Africa. The Lost Dhow gives us an important glimpse into the quantity and quality of the goods traded on the Maritime Silk Route and the cosmopolitan nature of the crews and traders in the ninth century long before the first western European ships dropped anchor in China.
The task for Origin Studios was twofold: to design an exhibition that would inform visitors about the ninth-century cargo ship and its discovery in the twentieth century, and also to create a space to display the commercial cargo and showcase the treasures. Origin created a central entranceway based on the size and shape of the dhow outlined on the floor. This feature is flanked by graphic banners holding historical and contextual information about the ship and its discovery and led visitors to the most valuable and important artifacts – the treasures – of the exhibition. From the treasures, visitors could explore hundreds of pieces of Tang Dynasty ceramics that made up the bulk of the cargo. The end result was an exhibit that emphasized the wonder and resonance of beautiful objects while also providing the deep historical and material context that gives them meaning.
Origin Studios worked with the staff of the Aga Khan Museum and guest curator John Vollmer from schematic design to final design and oversaw installation by the fabricator Holman Exhibits. The temporary exhibition is 5,000 square feet and opened at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, in December 2014.
Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, ON, 2014
Exhibit Space: 5,000 sq. ft.
James Adams, "The Lost Dhow: Aga Khan Exhibit Showcases Links Between Ancient Islam and China," The Globe and Mail (12 Dec. 2014), available at globeandmail.com.
All photographs by Janet Kimber. © The Aga Khan Museum, 2015.
Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century
Fashion Victims explores two sides of nineteenth-century fashion: the beautiful clothing and shoes worn by the fashionable men and women of the period and the processes and chemicals that made those same fashions potentially deadly. Toxic dyes – most famously arsenic green – and processing chemicals, as well as difficult working conditions, were the unseen story of nineteenth-century dress. This exhibition includes François Pinet’s opulently embroidered and labour intensive footwear, beaver felt top hats processed with mercury, and Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s extraordinarily narrow and constricting boots and gloves. Each object illustrates the exhibition's central thesis that fashion could be a dangerous business both to make and to wear.
Origin designed the exhibition using visual contrasting spaces to illustrate the dual nature of nineteenth-century fashion. The public face is warm and inviting, slightly luxurious, and invokes the era through the repetition of distinctive decorative forms and visual culture. The production story, on the other hand, is presented through stark and restrained exhibitry, physically separate from the luxurious presentation of public fashion, and includes the tools of the trades as well as relatively unglamorous worker’s shoes.
Origin Studios worked with the Bata Shoe Museum’s curatorial staff through the entire project, from schematic design to final design, and provided final drawings to the exhibition fabricator. The 3,200 square feet temporary exhibition opened at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, in June 2014.
The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2014
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.
Anne Kingston, "Deadly Victorian Fashions," Maclean's (9 June 2014), available at macleans.ca.
Nichole Jankowski, "Toxic Dyes and Mercury-Laced Hats: Exhibit Looks at the Dark Side of Fashion," The Globe and Mail (11 June 2014), available at globeandmail.com.
Karen von Hahn, "Bata Museum Exhibition Shows Pleasures and Peril of Fashion," Toronto Star (18 June 2014), available at thestar.com.
Bird and Mammal Galleries
The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa undertook a major renovation of its historic building from 2004 to 2010. This resulted in new galleries and exhibition spaces within the significant heritage landmark. Origin Studios designed and developed exhibits for the Birds of Canada and Mammals of Canada galleries, two of the museum’s signature spaces that were in need of significant updating. We were part of a collaborative effort, working to incorporate refurbished specimens and dioramas into updated environments, with new graphics and content. Our role involved the main display area of the Birds gallery, as well as children’s areas and interactives for both the Bird and Mammal galleries. The scope also included illustration and computer animation work.
Though traditional in its approach to specimen presentation, there is nothing musty or predictable about the Bird Gallery design. Where one might expect a cluttered, wooden science hall, we steered our design in the opposite direction. Open, airy and spacious, our avian exhibit provides plenty of room for the specimens to soar. The gallery is bright and white, providing a perfect backdrop for the stunning birds and their brilliant plumage. Clean-lined, custom-built casework unobtrusively houses the extensive collection, while contributing to the overall effect of contemporary elegance.
Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, ON, 2006
Exhibit Space: 6,000 sq. ft.
Bruce D. Campbell Farm & Food Discovery Centre
Origin Studios led the development of this new Discovery Centre, which opened in 2011-2012. We created the centre’s master plan, designed all exhibit spaces, interactives and graphics, and supervised final installation. In this instance, our interior design and spatial layout also influenced the architecture of the building. The centre is themed around environmental responsibility and food safety, and the four main sections include: crop management; meat production; the food processing cycle; and an examination of food choices, healthy eating, and food safety. An extensive series of interactives—both manual and digital—effectively support the key messaging throughout.
This project was produced for the Department of Agriculture at The University of Manitoba, and is located on an experimental farm where pigs and cattle are raised. The site is dedicated to sustainable farming practices, and employs methodology derived from the 1800s to create favourable conditions for the livestock, while managing odours in a visitor-friendly way!
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, 2012
Exhibit Design & Branding
Exhibit Space: 9,500 sq. ft.
On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels
On a Pedestal, installed in the third floor gallery at the Bata Shoe Museum, was a 3500 square foot show that brought together extraordinary shoes and extreme fashions of the Venetian Renaissance. Display elements included rare examples of Renaissance and Baroque footwear on loan from numerous renowned museums, including: Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Museo Bardini (Florence), Castello Sforzesco (Milan), Livrustkammaren and Skoklosters Slott (Stockholm), Museo Palazzo Mocenigo and Museo Correr (Venice), Ambras Castle (Austria), Boston Museum of Fine Art (Boston), and Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), as well as shoes from the museum’s own collection.
The primary design challenge was to find a tasteful way to create an immersive, 16th century, period-like environment. In order to achieve this we began with a custom wallpaper design, inspired by the palate and motifs of the day. We then added organizational structure to the interior using purchased columns, combined with ornate, custom-built arches and profiles. The overall effect was one of intimate spaces, carefully crafted to highlight the richness of the displays. The design was influenced by Venetian courtyards, which aligned with the client’s vision of the era. Our project scope included the exhibition catalogue, as well as marketing materials. Our poster design featured a fantastic, column-like shoe, connecting the collection to the architecture within the space—and a typographic window, offering a glimpse into the decadent materials on display.
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2009
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.
The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits
Origin Studios worked closely with the Bata Shoe Museum to develop this environment formed almost entirely by graphical interpretations of 1920s architectural details. The Roaring Twenties was a 2500 square foot exhibition, exploring the relationship between 1920s fashion and its myriad of influences, from cinema and jazz, to art and architecture. Here the conservative project budget demanded creative problem solving. Our solution was to rely on high impact, two-dimensional design elements. We created the exhibit environment using exquisite details extracted from Art Deco buildings in Montreal and New York, including an iconic starburst pattern taken directly from the Empire State building. We introduced a neutral palette to complement the show stopping Louis Vuitton shoe trunk in the centre of the exhibit, and to highlight the warmth of the collection. The graphic approach allowed design elements of the era to play a dramatic role, while ensuring the shoes themselves remained the focus. The promotional materials effectively combined the key components of the era, using the starburst to dramatically highlight the star of the show, the footwear!
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2011
Exhibit Space: 2,700 sq. ft.
Emergence from the Shadows
From sports logos to toys, to the Hollywood Western, popular culture has played a major role in creating and establishing stereotypes of the North American Indian. Through the lenses of historical anthropology and contemporary Aboriginal photography, Emergence from the Shadows looked at past and current perspectives on First Peoples, examining themes of community and continuity.
This exhibit, rich with metaphor and meaning, used shadow and light as major themes throughout. Projected images were used to suggest the ghost-like presence of ancestors, and to infer that images on film could never fully communicate the light or life of an individual. Shadows cast by the photographs themselves made reference to the souls of the subjects.
Works by aboriginal artists were placed opposite displays about the anthropologists who had studied their cultures, allowing the object to become the author. Anthropological photos were left unframed, sandwiched between plexiglass panels and raised from the wall like specimens, so that visitors might understand them as scientific in nature, rather than artistic. The influence of the ancestors was felt strongly in each work of art, as were themes of identity, archetype and stereotype. The exhibit posed questions and created juxtapositions between generations, allowing visitors to conclude that we are indeed more alike than different from those who came before.
Canadian Museum of Civilization [Canadian Museum of History], Gatineau, QC, 1999
Exhibit Space: 7,000 sq. ft.
Tied to Earth, Watched by Heaven
Origin Studios created Tied to Earth, Watched by Heaven at the Bata Shoe Museum, completing the exhibition design, interior space planning, furniture and cabinetry design, graphic design, artifact placement, and design styling. The show exhibits a collection of Chinese children’s footwear and garments from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as some on loan from a private collection. Common among many of the shoe designs are animal talismans, intended to summon protection. These ornate elements provided a powerful basis for our design inspiration.
Collaborating with the curator and cultural consultants, our designers developed graphics and textures from an array of traditions within Chinese history. The resulting, rich and distinctive visual language honoured Daoism, traditional garden design, feng shui, Buddhism, the Chinese animal zodiac, and Chinese vernacular design and architecture. The look and feel of the exhibition effectively combined the mysticism of the Chinese spiritual tradition with the festivity characteristic of the culture’s celebrations.
This exhibit won a prestigious Design Exchange award in 2006 in the category of Interiors Design: Temporary or Portable.
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2006
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.
Men’s Fashion: Clothes Make the Man
Clothes Make the Man explored how men’s clothing has long been shaped by vanity, practicality and the ever-elusive masculine ideal. This major exhibition explored the transformation of men’s clothing production—from homemade, to handmade, to ready-made—and examined 300 years of traditions and trends.
As we grew to appreciate the stories of the fashions, we became intrigued by the idea of bringing each piece of clothing to life. Rejecting the static quality of traditional museum mannequins, we elected to work with a theatrical designer to transform the vignettes from display to performance. The result was elegant and theatrical—the clothes floating while filled with form and life.
Exquisite details were magnified and used as backgrounds for the displays, encouraging the visitor to look more closely at the artifacts before them. Because the client did not want to use glass cases, it was essential to protect the collection by distancing the audience from the clothing. We developed layered graphic panels to establish an integrated and inconspicuous barrier, enhancing, rather than detracting from the objects. Contextual labels and interpretive texts were placed below the artifacts, so as to respectfully preserve sight lines.
We displayed clothing of opposing styles and purposes in close proximity to create dramatic juxtaposition. Smaller, more fragile objects were placed in the foreground, making them easier to view and allowing for protection and climate control. Accessories were placed in and around associated clothing to ensure proper context. While our lighting options were limited due to conservational requirements, we enlivened the displays with rich colours and textures drawn from the objects themselves.
Clothes Make the Man received the Costume Society of America’s 2003 “Richard Martin Award for Excellence in the Exhibition of Costume”.
McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal, QC, 2002
Exhibit Space: 6,000 sq. ft.
Canada’s Historic Places Website Design
Origin Studios developed this complex, database-driven website for Canada’s Historic Places collaborative initiative: an exhaustive centralized repository allowing access to 12,500 historic sites as well as associated images, documents and resources. The project was intended to feature as many photographs as possible from the vast combined collection. Guidelines required it be a searchable HTML site, drawing content from a Content Management Database developed by Parks Canada.
Visit the website at www.historicplaces.ca
Parks Canada, Ottawa, ON, 2010
Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War
Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War, is a ground-breaking exhibition about Canada’s participation in the international security mission, with content comprised of photographic and video records captured by journalists Stephen Thorne and Garth Pritchard. The exhibit focuses on the personal experiences of Canadian military personnel, and the Afghanis with whom their efforts intersect. The exhibition also profiles the current conflict in Afghanistan—from the events of September 11, 2001, to the deployment of Canadian troops, and ongoing operations.
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON, 2007
Exhibit Space: 3,500 sq. ft.
Statue of Liberty Master Planning
Origin Studios worked with Acheson Doyle Partners and Evelyn Hill Inc. to develop a master plan and schematic design proposal to expand the public experience on Liberty Island, New York, NY. Surveys identified that eighty percent of visitors to Liberty Island were unable to visit the exhibits inside the Statue of Liberty due to lineups and overcrowding. As such, Evelyn Hill Inc. proposed an innovative solution, allowing for the integration of meaningful exhibits into affiliated retail spaces. The architectural team, Acheson Doyle Partners, developed two schemes—a temporary, above ground structure as well as a permanent, below ground option. Exhibits and retail spaces were thoughtfully planned to correspond with the layout and character of each.
Evelyn Hill Inc. / U.S. National Park Service, New York, NY, 2009
Master Planning & Schematic Design
Retail/Exhibit Combined Space: 10,000 sq. ft.
Tombstone Territorial Park Interpretive Centre
The Tombstone Territorial Park Interpretive Centre relates the complex story of the Park’s history, stunning natural biodiversity, and uniqueness of its native culture. Origin Studios led this project from concept design through to fabrication and installation, bringing together key stakeholders and interested parties to ensure the project to ran smoothly. We overcame the challenges inherent in the remote location, and used creative problem solving and determination to gain access to the many required sources of information and images.
The development and planning for the centre began in the mid 1980s and underwent many changes over its lifespan. Themes and stories focused on the region’s dramatic landscapes and natural history, the impact of the Dempster Highway project, and the local First Nations with ancestral ties to the land. We employed a narrative style featuring first person accounts and story telling to allow the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations a primary role in educating about the land they occupy. We worked closely with scientists and Yukon Parks to relay the hidden complexity of the geology and biodiversity the park encompasses, and engaged the local community at every opportunity, including employing a number of local artists to flesh out stories with artwork and illustrations.
Early on in the process we facilitated a brainstorming session that allowed the client and consultants to understand the visitor path and experience. This interpretive strategy became our tracking document, allowing us to ensure nothing would be left behind in content development. The same system was also used to follow each informational panel from concept through to approval and fabrication.
In order to tie the wealth of stories and history together within the large, open plan space of the Visitor Centre, we designed a curvilinear grid—the essence of which was a strong, clean and cohesive graphic style. This served as an anchor, allowing layers of information to be placed on top of it in dynamic and engaging ways. The strength of the graphic strategy is reflective of the centre itself—a construct allowing diverse, intersecting stories to be brought together as a unified whole.
Yukon Territory Parks Dept., Whitehorse, YT, 2009
Exhibit Space: 2,500 sq. ft.
Beauty, Identity & Pride: Native North American Footwear
Beauty, Identity & Pride, explores the traditional footwear of North American Indigenous peoples. This 3,200 square foot room features ninety pairs of shoes, boots and moccasins, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship, regional patterns and beautiful decoration. The exhibition contains rarely seen artifacts selected entirely from the Bata Shoe Museum’s expansive Native footwear collection.
A dynamic feature within the exhibition is the ‘discovery drawer’ system, which allows visitors to explore, learn about, and in some cases touch materials used in the crafting of the footwear. The drawer system was designed to present precious surprises through which visitors might access ancestral wisdom. One drawer told the story of natural dyes and pigments in the American Southwest, another identified fur trade items that ended up on moccasins in the Northeast, while others allowed for tactile exploration of moosehair caribou, or a child’s moccasin from the Subarctic.
Unique, natural materials were placed beneath the artifacts to cleverly identify the geographical zone they came from. This approach allowed some of the regional materials used in creating the artifacts to be highlighted in an organizational, didactic and aesthetic way. Earth tones were used throughout the built environment contrasting dramatically with the large colourful photographs depicting the various regions. The intricacy of the beadwork on display inspired our development of a beautiful graphic pattern, used within the exhibition panels as well as on associated promotional materials.
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2008
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, Mattawa River Visitor Centre
In the fall of 2010, Origin Studios and fabricator Holman Exhibits began work on a re-design of the Visitor Centre at the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, in Mattawa, Ontario. The existing 2500 square foot centre included a small shop, a park information area and interpretive displays about the history and importance of the Mattawa River and surrounding region. Our task was to redesign the existing space, develop an interpretive plan, content, an interpretation kiosk, as well as a new information and office area.
The exhibit area, dating back to the mid 1980s, was in dire need of an overhaul. While some aspects continued to be popular with younger and repeat visitors—the replica freight canoe for example—much of the display space was under-used. Working intensively with park staff and Ministry of Natural Resources heritage interpreters, we developed an entirely new storyline and communications strategy. Emphasizing the Mattawa as a “river of experiences,” we traced the deep geologic history of the river, through its use by First Nations as a key trade route, to its role in the fur trade, opening up the continent to Europeans. Using archival images, primary texts, and reproduced works of art, we presented the higher-level themes on large wall panels. More specific information, stories, small artifacts, and personal accounts were introduced on a reader rail, which flowed through the exhibits, emulating the river itself. What was a dated, uninspired visitor centre is now an engaging and beautiful space where visitors can explore broad themes and messages, or spend time interacting with individual stories and objects. The openness of the space encourages personalized exploration, while the strength of the overarching themes ensure an appreciation for the culture and history are easily imparted.
Ontario Parks, Mattawa, ON, 2011
Exhibit Space: 2,500 sq. ft.
Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection
Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection, is an homage to the methodology of this masterful shoe designer. For the exhibition, the Bata Shoe Museum’s Vivier holdings were complemented by loans from world-renowned institutions, such as: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Deutsch Ledermuseum (Germany), and the Roger Vivier brand. The exhibition’s subtitle, Process to Perfection, reveals the intent behind the content: Vivier’s aesthetic and how it evolved over the course of his career.
Origin Studios created three rooms to honour this artist: the Salon, emulating the boutique look and feel of Paris couture; the Perfection Room, displaying the bulk of the completed shoes; and the Process Room, providing a glimpse into the designer’s mind. The Process Room included original drawings by Vivier, and a selection of “pullovers” (prototype models) designed for Christian Dior. The Process Room was stark and unobtrusive, serving as a blank canvas to highlight the ideas, the genius, and the shoes themselves. In executing this design we worked with the museum to recycle elements from previous collaborations, including arches and columns from the On a Pedestal exhibit. This solution allowed purpose-built elements an extended lifespan, resulting in cost savings and reduced waste.
Origin Studios also designed the accompanying exhibition catalogue, which received the 2014 Canadian Museum Association’s Award of Outstanding Achievement in Publications.
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2012
Exhibit Design & Exhibition Catalogue
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.