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Museum of Science and Industry Welcomes Visitors with AV Stumpfl

Pioneer Zephyr exhibition at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry
Pioneer Zephyr passenger train with "West Wind Vista" projection in background (Image credit: Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago)

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry used the pandemic pause as an opportunity to refurbish and upgrade its 60-year-old Pioneer Zephyr exhibition, adding a new dimension to the experience of early passenger train travel with an AV Stumpfl PIXERA media server and three Fullwhite projection screens that surround the train and museum visitors.

“The Pioneer Zephyr is a beloved piece of transportation and museum history that has wowed guests for generations,” said John Llewellyn, creative lead at the Museum of Science and Industry. “We are thrilled to reopen this museum icon for guests to experience up close its beautiful design and incredible story, which sets the stage for what to expect as they explore the rest of MSI.”

The exhibition, which has been part of MSI’s collection since 1960, invites guests to marvel at the nearly 200-foot-long diesel passenger train that reinvented travel and design, telling its formidable story through a combination of media.

Pioneer Zephyr exhibition at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

Pioneer Zephyr set a speed record when it debuted on May 26, 1934, traveling between Denver and Chicago in 13 hours. (Image credit: Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago)

Sporting a streamlined stainless-steel body and a cutting-edge diesel-electric engine, the Zephyr revolutionized the look of rail travel, while reducing fuel and maintenance costs. Although the public was shocked at first, they eventually fell in love with all things “streamlined,” and the Zephyr’s sleek form was soon mirrored in everyday items from transportation to toasters.

West Wind Vista at Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

A still from "West Wind Vista" (Image credit: Andrew Botros/Vimeo)

“West Wind Vista”

A key part of the exhibition’s update that helps bring the Zephyr to life for new generations is “West Wind Vista,” a 170-foot-long projected media piece that runs alongside the train, making museum visitors exploring the train feel as though they are in motion. “West Wind Vista” highlights the Pioneer Zephyr’s influence on the evolution of transportation, aerodynamics, and streamlining in industrial design via motion graphics.

Technology Refresh

Creative Technology Group was tasked with taking care of the installation, overseen by project lead Michael Fuller.

Fuller and his team selected AV Stumpfl’s Fullwhite screen as the best projection surface for the job, as its borderless appearance would help preserve the immersive nature of the projected content. Exhibit media including “West Wind Vista” is projected across three panels, each measuring 43 feet 8 inches wide and 13 feet 8 inches high.

The team also specified one of AV Stumpfl’s PIXERA mini Quad media servers to control the three projectors and the content they displayed.

“Using AV Stumpfl products within our design for the Pioneer Zephyr project was the best route for us to take,” said Fuller. “AV Stumpfl is in the industry to craft fine products with meticulous detail, and that really shows in the end result. The customer service assistance we received from them was tremendous, and having them train our installation team prior to installation was key in developing the required warp for our 180° projection surface.”

Pioneer Zephyr exhibition at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

(Image credit: Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago)

“We are so satisfied to have our solutions deployed on such a prestigious project,” added Hans Christian Stucken, global marketing advisor for AV Stumpfl. “In the same way that this enchanting exhibition showcases the latest in display technology alongside the Zephyr’s timeless engineering, we—with the help of the talented team at CT—have been able to show that both our digital and analogue products can be used in tandem to bring out the best in one another.”

“Museum visitors love the new exhibit, and are wowed by the larger-than-life media piece that brings energy and motion to the train,” said Sheila Cawley, MSI’s vice president of external affairs. “Children and their parents are being inspired as they learn the Zephyr’s history and explore the science and engineering behind train travel. The new exhibition is a showstopper.”

The renovation of the Pioneer Zephyr was made possible through the generous support of the Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, IL.

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