Behind the Scenes of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition
On October 3, 2009, the Houston Museum of Natural Science will open the doors of its newest location in Sugarland. From earth science to dinosaurs, this 43,000 square foot building offers visitors an additional branch of HMNS. One of the first traveling exhibits this museum will host is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition.
Previously in Kansas, the exhibit will showcase costumes, props, and much more from the Narnia movies and the author’s life. An exhibit like this takes a lot of effort to move from location to location and to get ready for the thousands of visitors that will move through its halls.
Carolyn Sumners, project manager for HMNS Sugarland and the Chronicles of Narnia, answered several questions on some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Narnia exhibit.
Q: With this being the opening of a new branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is there any additional work that you have to put into setting up for an exhibit like The Chronicles of Narnia?
A: This challenge has been to solve problems before they arise — answering the question, what could go wrong when the building is finished. Will the loading dock work for large trucks and large crates. Do we need a bigger entrance door? Can everything be sent to the second floor safely? What do we do with all the crates? We discovered that we have huge limitations in the loading dock, that we had to make the front door larger, that we needed a wider ramp for unloading in the front of the building and that lots of crates really get in the way in a small museum. But all challenges have been addressed and the Narnia exhibit is on schedule.
Q: What all goes into setting up an exhibit like this?
A: Installation logistics as described above, but also how tall and wide are the pieces, what order should visitors experience the exhibit, can we make a good path. Also do we have enough power for lights and who is providing the lights and do we have any unusual electrical needs — like the ice wall which required 220 volts. Then the challenge of handling the press correctly — getting the proper approvals, which is very important for the Museum and for the Narnia staff.
Q: How are exhibits, like Narnia, transported from one venue to another?
A: 11 semi-tractor trailer trucks.
Q: Does the museum itself install the exhibit or are there people who travel with it who set it up?
A: An installation crew comes in for installation and the Museum exhibits staff assists this crew.
Q: Are there any stories about setting up the exhibit that you can share?
A: The exhibit has many strange pieces — like centaurs and tree trunks — that look very strange moving through the lower floor and being hoisted onto the second floor. With the careful planning that has gone on, the layout all fits where it’s supposed to. Because the Museum had not opened, we did not have to move exhibits out of the way — like our big T-Rex called Stan and our Science on a Sphere exhibit — both in the atrium where the lifting to the second floor is taking place. The atrium will be more cramped for future installations.
Q: Are there any pieces or interactive parts of the exhibit that are more popular with crowds than others based on the previous venues?
A: I predict that the snowy landscape, just after going through the wardrobe, will be very popular. The exhibit is also proving to be very popular with school groups because it can be tied to language arts, social studies, and science.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition is a magnificent exhibit, as NarniaWebbers have reported. Thanks to Carolyn Sumners and the Houston Museum of Natural Science for giving Narnia fans this behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming exhibit! Visit HMNS.org for more information.