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Denver Diorama

  History Colorado Center Opened February 2013   (From the exhibition website) The Denver diorama, a 1930s-era public works project showing central Denver in 1860, dazzled visitors at the Colorado History Museum for almost seventy-five years. In the 1930s, the diorama broke new ground: funded by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and its successor, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), it provided badly

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needed employment to out-of-work historians, artists, architects, and craftspeople, and it helped kick off a period of creative activity that marked the first Golden Age of the Colorado Historical Society—today’s History Colorado. Spatial Poetics was contracted to assist History Colorado with displaying the restored diorama in the new History Colorado Center building. The display of the diorama was complicated by several planning and conservation issues that narrowed the

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options for presenting it to the public. Due to its large footprint (11 x 14 feet), the object only fit in the building’s west-facing lobby, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. This meant we had to mitigate its exposure to high levels of UV light from the afternoon sun. Through several planning and research sessions with History Colorado staff, we determined that a layered approach to light reduction would be required. The first layer would stop some light at the building envelope, thereby reducing the amount of light in the lobby. We used this opportunity to explore large-scale, double-sided graphics to cover the windows, which would also double as a communication tool for the Center. As a changeable element that faces the street and the lobby, the graphic could contain content on both sides which the staff could tailor to their messaging. The second layer would reduce the light levels at the envelope of the display case and give the museum greater control over the protection of the diorama. We employed SPD-SmartGlass panels as the material to be used for the vitrine. Similar to a liquid crystal display, SmartGlass is a glass laminate that darkens or lightens via an electrical charge. This material, combined with an array of fiber-optic lighting inside the case, allowed the museum the ability to “dial in” a precise number of foot candles of light reaching the object, and thus reduce UV light to virtually zero.   Services:

Casework design Materials research Graphics consultation

  All photos © History Colorado Center/Jay DiLorenzo, used with permission.