People of the First Light

Interactive Kiosks

Abbe Museum

How can we visualize and interact with the Wabanaki’s difficult stories, hot issues, and vibrant culture?

In 2015-2016, we designed and built two interactive kiosks for the Abbe Museum’s People of the First Light permanent exhibit that opened in late April 2016 in Bar Harbor:

  • Encounter & Contact: Continuity, Change, and Shared History
  • Places of the Dawnland

People of the First Light introduces visitors to the Wabanaki universe, engaging them with a culture and history that is unfamiliar to many. It brings together oral traditions, personal stories, cultural knowledge, language, and historical accounts with objects, photographs, maps, multi-media, and digital interactives to share a wide variety of content and perspectives around more than 12,000 years of history, conflict, adaptation, and survival in the Wabanaki homeland.

For both exhibits, we worked collaboratively with museum staff through all phases of the design and build process:

  • Establishing learning goals & outcomes
  • Conceptualizing the experiences
  • Content development
  • User experience design
  • Content strategy & direction
  • Technology selection & implementation
  • Development
  • Installation
  • Training & support

The exhibits run on 5 iPad Pros that are thoughtfully grouped to allow a social experience for a number of visitors, or a personal journey for individuals.

Exhibits were purposefully designed to allow museum staff easy, intuitive access to the content and the ability to update stories, maps, text, and images themselves to keep the exhibit fresh and aligned with current hot topics over the next 5 to 10-year lifespan of the new space.


Encounter & Contact: Continuity, Change, and Shared History

The Encounter & Contact interactive exhibit focuses on Wabanaki history and on the encounters and interactions that have impacted Wabanaki culture throughout their 12,000 year history.

To make visitors immediately aware of modern, contemporary Wabanaki culture and ongoing encounters, the exhibit experience opens with a collection of recent stories. Each story is told in an engaging and personal way to evoke feelings in line with the experience goals.

Each of these current stories then connects to related encounters and interactions reaching further back in Wabanaki history. Relatedness is achieved through political, environmental, social, individual, or tribal issues and events. The exhibit’s current story themes are:

  • The Penobscot River
  • Colonization & Human Rights
  • Allies & Adversaries
  • Artists & Traders

Through this exhibit and learning experience, visitors may choose to engage deeply with only one or two stories, to skim through all stories, or to dig in to all stories for the fullest picture.


Places of the Dawnland

Places of the Dawnland is a map-based experience that explores current and historical Wabanaki territory in New England and Canada, the origin and place name stories that have described and defined the Wabanaki landscape for generations, and an intimate look at modern day Wabanaki communities.

Visitors have a choice of 4 different maps to navigate:

  • Changes in the Dawnland
  • Wabanaki Today
  • Languages & Landscapes
  • Stories of the Dawnland

These maps were built using ESRI ArcOnline software and Storymaps templates and allow visitors to explore beautiful maps rich with multimedia content.

The maps and supporting content were carefully designed and built to allow museum staff to update and add to the content over time to extend the life of the exhibit.


In the news

Abbe Museum’s new exhibition tells difficult Native American stories: People of the First Light’ features Native voices and a more inclusive historical narrative than has been told in the past.

  • Portland Press Herald, May 22 2016
Abbe Museum People of the First Light interactive kiosks