Founded in 1918 in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University is a public research university with satellite facilities in Fishers and Indianapolis. BSU is particularly noted for its premier programs in entrepreneurship, landscape architecture, digital media, music technology, educational leadership and communication studies. Dr. Beth Messner is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at BSU.
In Fall 2015 and April 2016, Beth and her students collaborated on the Freedom Bus, a unique project involving the Martin Luther King Dream Team, Miles Printing and several community donors. The Martin Luther King Dream Team had been gifted a retired city bus, and they wanted to create a mobile museum featuring local history that could supplement fourth grade curriculum related to the Civil Rights Movement. The mobile museum would consist of eight different exhibit displays with interactive features: History of Oppression, Local Leaders, Hate Crimes, Public Accommodations, Education, Employment and Call-to-Action.
Beth incorporated this design project into the syllabus of her fall and spring immersive learning course. She knew that, in order to execute this idea for the Freedom Bus, she and her class would require assistance printing out graphics and building out exhibit structures. Beth first approached Miles Printing for their graphics capabilities; however, they were unable to provide the other project elements.
As Beth put it: “We were in need of a partner with a very specific intersection of professional capabilities: an understanding of and experience with exhibit design, design for children and design for mobile structures. ExpoDesign is the one firm in town with those areas of expertise.”
Miles Printing was familiar with ExpoDesign’s work and referred them to Beth. “Interestingly, Miles Printing and ExpoDesign had never collaborated before; this was their first project together. However, ExpoDesign’s reputation preceded them.” ExpoDesign was brought on to the Freedom Bus project to design and construct the exhibits in collaboration with Miles Printing and Beth’s students.
Beth provided some insight concerning the relationship with ExpoDesign: “I had an amazing experience working with ExpoDesign. They were incredibly collaborative in terms of their desire to understand the vision and creative in terms of their ideas for achieving that vision. Expo has a very talented team. This kind of project demanded more than just construction; it required various types of skilled artistry. They really take the vision on paper and bring it to life.”
In addition to this artistry, ExpoDesign was able to offer some more practical guidance. “I worked really closely with Matt Lafary at ExpoDesign in terms of budgeting for the final design. We were working with very limited funds, and at times, my students’ design ideas far exceeded those funds. Matt offered some very creative budgeting solutions and identified strategies for cost savings. With his help, we were able to accomplish the same results within our budget.”
Beth’s students enjoyed the experience as much as she did: “ExpoDesign was really accommodating in allowing my students to collaborate and shadow the process. They established a protocol to meet safety requirements and brought the students into their studio to see the process first-hand. Every time we came away from a visit, I had multiple students telling me that they wanted to work at Expo. The class brought together students involved in multiple fields: graphic design, telecommunications and more. Students of all disciplines connected with the unique, creative and fun work ExpoDesign’s team accomplished.”
The ExpoDesign team met with the students several times at both BSU’s and ExpoDesign’s facilities. After weeks of working with the students, ExpoDesign was able to nail down a specific design for the mobile museum, and production began. ExpoDesign finalized the specifications and composition. Expo then joined forces with Miles Printing to fabricate and install each of the eight exhibits inside the repurposed city bus. BSU brought the bus to the ExpoDesign studio where the team carefully demolished prototype exhibits originally built by the students and rebuilt the vehicle per the collaborative design. Expo framed out each area of the bus. Each facade was then carefully templated and given an automotive finish to create a distinctive look for each exhibit. Interactive pieces were incorporated, including working phones playing stories of segregation from local participants, a school locker that contained the story of racial tensions in a local school and a faux-finished barn to represent stops on the Underground Railroad.
The result is a fully-mobile and functional museum that travels to local elementary schools. Students are able to tour the Freedom Bus and learn about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
Beth was more than pleased with the results: “We’ve received wonderful responses to the Freedom Bus. Children are enamored of the interactive exhibits, and teachers appreciate the immersive experience for their classes. It’s truly a unique experience. The interior of the mobile museum catches people off-guard; suddenly, you’re no longer in a bus. The Freedom Bus has done a lot of good in our community, advancing civil rights education.”
This experience has left Beth and BSU enthusiastic about collaboration with ExpoDesign: “I look forward to continuing to work with ExpoDesign on the Freedom Bus, as we hope to maintain and update the exhibits every few years. I would love to work with them on future projects. My recommendation of ExpoDesign to others is nothing but glowing.”
Likewise, the team at Expo thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Beth, her students, BSU, Miles Printing and the Martin Luther King Dream Team on such a meaningful project. It was a true privilege and a pleasure, and we hope to continue to strengthen the relationship in the future.
Do you have a similarly unique project? Secure the services of a truly collaborative partner. Start the conversation with ExpoDesign today.