Empresses of China Installation
We created an audiovisual installation that welcomed visitors to PEM's Empresses of China’s Forbidden City exhibition using synced audio, lighting, and a custom OS X application.
Peabody Essex Museum logo

As guests walked into Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibition hall they were greeted by eight large, floor-to-ceiling banners of Chinese empresses from the Great Qing - a period of Chinese imperial rule that lasted from 1644 to 1912. Triggered based on a scripted timeline, each empress introduced herself by name as a spotlight illuminated her portrait.

Wide shot of all banners


Utilizing the FG Platform for edge computing, our team was tasked with syncing audio and lights to spotlight the banners while a speaker announced the empresses’ family name, providing an ever-rotating introduction for the Qing empresses.

Similar to our work with PEM’s Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style exhibition, production centered around Distributed Theater, a custom OS X application that leverages the Stela microservice from our open source edge computing platform. In this instance of Distributed Theater, we focused on integrating the application with a MOTU audio interface that outputted to eight disparate speakers for positional audio above the banners.

Tech diagram of the installation


The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts is a world-class facility housing more than 1.3 million pieces, including more than 840,000 works featuring maritime art and history. Empresses of China’s Forbidden City was organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. For more information about the Peabody Essex Museum, visit www.pem.org.

All exhibit photos were graciously provided by Peabody Essex Museum/Kathy Tarantola.