Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Visitors to the newly inaugurated Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City can take a virtual tour of the iconic Ebbets Field where the baseball legend played with the Brooklyn Dodgers, thanks to a new, immersive exhibit created by Ideum Inc.
The Corrales-based interactive design firm built a scale model of the stadium as a signature exhibit at the museum, which opened Tuesday in Lower Manhattan, providing guests with a bird’s-eye view of team members playing on the field as the score board lights up and some 33,000 3D-printed fans cheer from the stands. Bullpens, dugouts and press boxes are all illuminated, alongside era-based advertising signs seen at the stadium during the heyday of the Dodgers.
There’s even a peep hole, or kids’ “peekaboo,” cut into the left side of the fence surrounding the field. And, as visitors watch the action, a large LED-tile wall behind the stadium model flashes video and images that tell stories about Robinson, the Dodgers and the stadium, said Ideum founder and CEO Jim Spadaccini.
“It’s an immersive, story-telling platform with players running around the field, fans packed into the stands and built-in graphics to highlight everything,” Spadaccini told the Journal. “And alongside the stadium model, the LED-tile wall helps drive the whole visitor experience.”
Since launching in 1999, Ideum has created hundreds of high-tech interactive displays that today greet visitors at museums, zoos, libraries, corporate offices and tourist destinations in the U.S., and in some three dozen other countries. But the Ebbets Field exhibit marks one of Ideum’s highest-profile achievements to date, earning accolades from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which spent more than a decade planning the new museum to highlight Robinson’s life and achievements, not just as a sports icon, but as one of the 20th century’s most-important civil rights activists.
Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier when he debuted for the Dodgers in spring 1947 and, after retiring from the sport in 1956, he went on to break more barriers in advertising, broadcast and business, including the creation of a bank dedicated to assisting Black citizens. His widow, Rachel Robinson – who turned 100 in July – created the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973 to provide education and university scholarships to Black students.
Rachel Robinson cut the ribbon at the July 26 museum opening, which included such celebrities as Spike Lee and Billie Jean King, plus a keynote by New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
The 20,000-square-foot center includes some 4,500 artifacts and 40,000 historical images. But the Ebbets Field exhibit in particular stood out during the opening, said Ivo Philbert, foundation vice president for community engagement, partnership and communications.
“Attendees really loved the experience that Ideum helped create,” Philbert told the Journal. “Younger people particularly enjoyed all the interactive tools to navigate around the field while listening to music from the era.”
Ideum recreated Ebbets Field from a computer-based drawing of the stadium. The company worked in partnership with architecture firm Gensler’s digital experience design division, which developed the original exhibit concept, and wrote the software program that tells stories of Robinson’s career and activism.
Ideum then built the exhibit itself at its fabrication facilities in Corrales.
“We built a cardboard prototype first to check the measurements and so forth, and then we built the model here and shipped it to New York,” Spadaccini said. “We spent three weeks there to install it, including all the electronics, the projector and the LED-tile wall.”
The project reflects a significant upswing in business activity for Ideum, which suffered in the pandemic.
The company grew rapidly over the past decade by developing cutting-edge, multi-touch display tables that allow people to pull up visual displays and information at the touch of a finger. And, in recent years, it expanded its designs to create immersive “video walls” that combine sensing technology with imaging and audio projection to convert entire rooms into interactive exhibits.
Ideum’s display-table sales and rentals, however, declined markedly when the coronavirus pandemic hit, as museums and other customers shied away from touch-based exhibits.
“2020 was a hard year for us,” Spadaccini said. “Our sales cratered.”
But, since last year, business has picked back up, thanks in good part to some major, full-immersion projects, including a sprawling, two-building “Wildlife Explorers Basecamp” for children that Ideum built for the San Diego Zoo. That project, which Ideum completed in January, encompasses more than 20 interactive exhibits focused on insects and reptiles, with projection and screen-based technology to create such things as an illuminated “Living River” corridor and a full-dome projection room showing insect migration in vibrant color that changes from day to night.
“Children stand in a virtual meadow with flowers and plants, while looking up at butterflies, locusts and other insects flying overhead,” Spadaccini said. “The migration cycle then turns to night and the kids see other species, like fireflies.”
That project alone involved nearly all of the company’s 45 employees, said Ideum Chief Experience Officer Rebecca Shreckengast.
“Projects like that have allowed us to keep our staff working with very few layoffs from the pandemic,” Shreckengast told the Journal.
The Ebbets Field exhibit, meanwhile, has offered Ideum a unique chance to help highlight Jackie Robinson’s legacy.
“Through that project, our work is now attached to civil rights education at a time when its critical to tell Jackie Robinson’s story because the issues he confronted are still not resolved,” Spadaccini said. “It’s great to be a part of it.”
Ideum’s contribution helps enhance the Robinson story, Philbert said.
“We’re really excited about the role that exhibit is playing in the museum,” Philbert said. “It really adds to the museum experience, and the impact and legacy of Jackie and Rachel Robinson.”