Brent Menchinger, a Professor in the Murray State Theatre department, recently brought his talents as a theatre designer to an intriguingly unusual domain: The Kalamazoo Air Zoo, a Smithsonian affiliated aviation museum that focuses on aviation, aerospace, history and education. The Air Zoo is the home of the Michigan Space Science Center – ranked fourth in the nation for the number of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum artifacts on display. The Air Zoo is also the home of the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans Association Artifacts Collection.
Brent explains, “Many of the Air Zoo’s exhibits come from other museums. While these exhibits are unique and stay at the Air Zoo for various amounts of time, they are also expensive to run and may come to the museum the worse for wear. The museum is responsible for repairing them, which can be costly. It is this issue, and the sometimes lack of response to these exhibits financially that led to the Air Zoo in deciding to create their own.”
Brent added his experience in theatre design to the museum’s technical expertise and extensive collection of artifacts. He specifically worked on “the new installation of the Guadalcanal Memorial Museum, which features a full-size replica bunker, interactive displays, dioramas, and rare historic artifacts.” Brent notes, “This process during this project was no different than my process to any theatre design.” He was given a space, a budget, provided advice on materials, designed the exhibit, and assisted with adapting the design for construction.
Additionally, while theatre design is temporary, usually running for days or months at most, the work of the museum is on display for longer periods. Brent notes, “My expertise came in providing solutions on how to make the various elements look real. While this is not unlike theatre – the difference came in that audiences would actually walk through it.”
Because of work like this, Brent was recently honored with the University Outstanding Research Award.
Below are images from the Guadalcanal Exhibit that Brent helped design. Click here to read news coverage (quoted above) about Brent’s work.
See the video below for a commercial for the Air Zoo.