Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor
Creating the Exhibit – Series 2 of 4

January 16, 2018

Protecting the Emperor’s Guard

Showcasing the Warriors – Artifacts, Cases, and Platforms

One of the most significant challenges in the creation of Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor was how to protect the over 160 ancient artifacts, including 10 terracotta figures, while giving visitors an up-close look at these remarkable pieces. The problem was made even more complex by the need for all artifacts to travel to two very different spaces across the country from one another. The project presented two very challenging questions:

1. How do we ensure the objects are protected, yet showcased beautifully at two different venues while staying within our tight timeline and budget?

Our considerations for casework and platforms needed to balance aesthetic design with the safety and security of the objects. The casework needed to be sturdy enough to travel, as well.

2. How do we plan and build dozens of cases for priceless objects based on an object list that is changing during the design process?

All of the objects in the exhibit were coming from China. An international loan has many moving parts, which meant that our object list was subject to change throughout the loan process. The list could, and did, change several times after we would normally require a final list. This meant that we needed to be flexible and responsive to changing objects. Each change required some redesigning of case layouts and floor plans to ensure the objects were protected and the storylines remained intact.

Our Solutions

Thankfully, the difficulties of logistics for this project were apparent from the beginning of the exhibit process. We were able to build in the time and planning needed to accommodate the special circumstances for the casework. We worked closely with our fabrication partners, USA Inc. to minimize any surprises and find a case solution that worked in our budget and timeframe of 15 months from project kick-off to opening.

USA was instrumental in researching custom case solutions for the smaller projects and landed on Gaylord Archival for many of the cases. They offered high-quality cases, within budget and timeframe, that could easily be broken down for travel. The cases enabled us to have the appropriate climate control, security features, and aesthetics.

Custom platforms were designed with a raised center for the warrior display and surrounding base as the visitor barrier. The bases were designed with a unique Chinese aesthetic using limited color and decoration to feature the warriors in a reverent way. We were also mindful of standard sheet sizes for materials to minimize seams and allow the platforms to be broken apart easily for transport. An alarm system was also integrated into the platforms. Case and platform prototypes were created to ensure the final products would be both sturdy and stylish.

Object Case and Platform Overview

  • 26 custom cases with linen wrapped wall backs, plinths and floating shelves; painted wood bases; acrylic vitrines; desiccant chambers and locking cases
  • custom made mounts for each object done on site at time of installation
  • alarm systems incorporated
  • 8 display platforms
  • black matte laminate bases with gloss vinyl applique done in sections for design aesthetic and ease of transport
  • raised central warrior platform with custom mounts
  • integrated graphics in the stanchion barriers

 

Every object was rendered in 3d and designed into various case styles based on storylines. Security features and object preservation were key.

3d rendering of exhibit cases for Terracotta Warriors

 

Both venues had climate controlled spaces so we were able to explore open-air platform bases as a way to showcase the figures while still protecting them with a physical barrier and alarm systems. Warriors were placed on a raised pedestal with the surrounding barrier that could be broken down easily for transport. The minimalist black and red palette with simple decoration highlighted the figures in a reverent way.

3d rendering of a climate controlled exhibit platform for Terracotta Warriors

 

Team collaboration – there were many reviews of objects, cases, platforms and floor plans

Exhibit Design Collaboration

 

Getting it all to fit in two very different spaces was challenging

Exhibit space floor plans

 

Case and platform prototypes were key to understanding the final assembly with objects and an opportunity to make nuanced design revisions.

Review of prototypes and cases at our design/build partners location; USA. 

Exhibit platform and case fabrication

Design studies on how to incorporate label information into the platforms. We wanted to highlight the basic object information but also present details about the unique figures within this exhibition. Detailed illustrations were created of each figure with text highlights about their features and garments. Weaponry was added to the illustrations as well.

Exhibit graphic panels Terracotta Warrior drawing

Terracotta Warriors Display Panels

Final installation of cases and platforms

Final install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit casesFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit casesFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit cases   Final install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit casesFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit casesFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit casesFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior platform and exhibit graphicsFinal install of the Terracotta Warrior platform and exhibit graphics Final install of the Terracotta Warrior platform and exhibit graphics

Final install of the Terracotta Warrior platform and exhibit graphics

Final install of the Terracotta Warrior platform and exhibit graphics

Special thanks to USA for our Design/Build Partnership

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