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Interactive Annual 20:
Environmental

Maya 2012: Lords of Time

Launch Movie

“This was a great way to present a lot of information in a fun way that augments the overall exhibit.”
—Sean Klassen

“I loved the interactive Maya calendar and the way the illustrations were brought to life. It looked like an engaging exhibit for all ages.”
—Kris Kiger


Overview: The Penn Museum’s Maya 2012: Lords of Time was a critically acclaimed exhibition that explored the Maya’s sophisticated systems of language and timekeeping, alongside an impressive collection of ancient artifacts. Timed to coincide with the end-of-the-world predictions for December 2012, the exhibition offered a fascinating look at Maya culture, beyond the popular myths. Interactive design studio Bluecadet worked closely with museum scholars and exhibit staff to create three installations and two immersive projections explaining key concepts—such as Maya timekeeping and glyph writing—that would be tricky to grasp by looking at static objects or text alone. One touchscreen compared Maya and Western calendar systems while a projection displayed an eye-catching animated model of the Maya calendar. Another projection let visitors relax and reflect beneath an atmospheric display of the night sky, punctuated by ghostly glyph characters. A larger tabletop interactive invited multiple users to play archaeologist, virtually exploring a king’s tomb from the ancient city of Copán.

  • • Visitors used their hands to sift through dirt and drag artifacts, such as skulls and broken bones, to their “stations” for further study.
  • • The glyph-writing touchscreen used a linear navigation to slowly explain the very complicated Maya language. Only a handful of people alive today are able to read and speak it.
  • • Each glyph was hand drawn for accuracy. When glyphs are combined in the application, each takes on specific rules depending on what other glyphs it’s paired with.

Comments by Troy Lachance and Stacey Martens:

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The biggest challenge was understanding how the Maya calendar works. We did a ton of research on how to translate dates back and forth between the Maya and Gregorian systems. In the end, the client provided us with a constant correlation, and we relied heavily on online resources to check our math.”

Did you learn anything new during the process? “Like most people, we knew nothing about the Maya language, calendar or burial sites. We had to truly immerse ourselves in it. Our developer had daily access to one of the seven people in the world who can speak and read the Maya language, and a leading Maya archaeologist took us on a virtual tour of the site she personally discovered and studied.”

Credits

Troy Lachance, design director
Troy Lachance/Kim Quinn, design team
Josh Goldblum, creative director
Jason Grandelli/Stacey Martens, developers
John Long/Aaron Richardson, animators
Carlos Gastélum, 3-D modeling
Aaron Miller, producer
Harrison Haas, quality assurance
Bluecadet (Philadelphia, PA), project design and development
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, client


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