LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN BATTLEFIELD
The Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitors Center at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was being completely renovated and updated. As part of this effort, a new interactive program was desired to provide additional interpretation of James Walker’s painting The Battle of Lookout Mountain as well as information about other visual interpretations and reporting of the Civil War. The massive 33 x 13 foot painting is housed in a low-light theater for preservation reasons. The low light environment makes it difficult for visitors to fully appreciate the details in the work and limits access by the visually impaired and mobility restricted.
The interactive program was originally specified to provide a better understanding of photography and illustration during the Civil War, provide some additional background on James Walker, and highlight some points of interest in the painting. When Somerset Group reviewed the requirements, we proposed an additional feature to allow visitors to explore the painting in greater detail by creating an interface that allows the visitor to zoom in on the painting as if they were standing just a few inches from the canvas. To accomplish this we took a series images of the painting on of 4" x 5" film. Due to the size and condition of the artwork, cracking in the painting and restrictions for lighting, we used a series of polarized lights and filters to image the painting in sections. The films were digitized at very high resolution and these images combined to create a single image some 64,000 pixels wide that allows for very detailed magnification.
An interface was designed with an historic rustic look and feel that utilized several aesthetics from the new visitor center’s palette. This allowed for continuity between the digital media and the physical environment. The touch screen interactive was programmed using commercial off-the-shelf tools. Park personnel provided historical imagery of photography and illustrations as well as reference materials on several artists and photographers from the Civil War. In addition a biography of James Walker and details about the painting were provided along with a digital image of the painting. The software was built such that external files contain the data on the other artists and photographers of the period. This allows park staff to change out the illustrators and photographers, add or delete images and make text changes using basic text and image editing programs. The interactive then accesses these files and automatically updates itself with the most current information.