DMC worked with a nonprofit Midwestern art museum to modify a custom display case and turn it into one that can reliably be used universally for other displays.
The large display case originally contained a piece of long scroll art on loan from a museum in China. The original machine builder made this case so the glass cover lifted to allow curators to get in and move things around. The display also had a tablet that slid along the length of it to give visitors details about what was happening in each section.
Once the museum had to return the scroll, they wanted to repurpose the case so it could hold other exhibits. This meant reworking some aspects of the display.
It used a Siemens PLC to run everything, but the original PLC code was in Italian. I translated the code and then rewrote the software, removing the iPad functionality because it was no longer needed and simplifying the safety program for opening and closing the case.
The system itself has three screw motors: one in the center and one on either side. The technical challenge was getting all three of them to extend in sync with each other. The cover is made of two large panes of glass, each roughly 15’ by 3’. To avoid cracking the glass, I needed to make sure the panes stayed level. I made a simple web server so the museum could jog one side of the case to even things out if the case ever fell out of sync due to mechanical failures.
Overall, we successfully provided the client with new, simplified PLC code, the new web server, and documentation for troubleshooting.
The museum was a very pleasant place to be onsite. I worked in an empty gallery in an art museum. It was comfortable, climate controlled, quiet, and certainly not a factory floor.
Once I finished working onsite for the last time, I returned to the museum as a visitor. The first time I was there, they were closed because of covid. It was very fun to walk around their grounds and various exhibits, just to get a better sense of the museum as a whole.
The people that I worked with were doing the physical construction and setup for displaying various pieces of art – in a factory, their equivalent would likely be maintenance people. These people build the display in which various pieces are featured, and they modify the cases that house those displays. This ensures that all pieces are being maintained as best they can and in a suitable display context. We also worked with some curators at the museum to ensure that the end product would match their vision for an upcoming exhibit. I worked closely with people in both roles and learned more about the museum during the process.
As someone who came in with virtually zero knowledge of the art world, it was extremely interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look – largely because of how it contrasted with the factory floors that I am accustomed to working on.
On top of the difference in working conditions, the end goal of the customer (the museum) in this case was not at all what I am accustomed to. The museum offers free admission and is funded almost entirely by donations. So, instead of producing a product or service for sale, their focus is providing a fun and educational experience to visitors. It was a very cool project to be a part of.
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