Heard Museum Case Study: Substance of Stars Sky-Dome

The Heard Museum in Phoenix is known for being the world’s preeminent museum for the presentation, interpretation and advancement of American Indian art. When museum leaders wanted to create a permanent exhibit in their Jacobson Gallery that would provide visitors with an immersive experience, they turned to PIVIUM to help execute on their vision. Here is a look at the work we did together.

Substance Of Stars Sky-Dome

Funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment, the Substance of Stars project is the result of three years of collaboration with four Indigenous communities. The exhibition examines the collection of the Heard Museum from Indigenous perspectives, across a wide variety of media and time periods. It incorporates Indigenous languages, sky knowledge, and spiritual values, and includes elements of the origin stories that form Native identities.

To start, and in order to create a truly immersive experience, the Heard Museum needed a special video installation that would reflect the sacred relationship between Native Knowledge and Mother Earth. Through deep collaboration, the idea of the Sky-Dome was born, envisioned as offering a 360-degree view of images and sounds from the natural landscape. 

Visitors would virtually enter the land of each community: the southwest desert, the arctic seascape, the woodlands, mountains, and hills, at different seasons and times of the day. One of the best parts of all is that Indigenous photographers and videographers were commissioned to create the images, so they would decide what features and locations within their homelands should be presented.

Technical Requirements

The end result of the Substance of Stars Sky-Dome is absolutely breathtaking, and visitors are already enraptured in its immersive storytelling. Of course, a lot went on behind the scenes in order to bring this poignant experience to life. Working hand-in-hand with the Heard Museum, PIVIUM meticulously designed and installed the following audio visual (AV) solutions: 

  • Display Systems – Four video projectors, dual monitor digital signage system, and single monitor digital signage system with outboard playback speakers. 
  • Source Equipment (Video) – A specialty appliance to store video content and provide image blending and mapping for the projection systems, along with digital signage playback units. 
  • Source Equipment (Audio) – All content audio for the dome projection system is played back through the digital storage appliance and through a digital signal processing (DSP) unit to allow for audio-sweetening of signals to match the required playback in the space; speakers tuned and aligned for complete coverage of the dome area. 

Bringing this cultural and artistic masterpiece to life, alongside our friends at the Heard Museum, was a true honor for us at PIVIUM. We are thankful for the opportunity and excited for all present and future museum visitors to soak in the wonder and education. 

Eager to make an immersive impact like the Heard Museum did with the Substance of Stars exhibit? We would love to help design and install the right audio visual solutions for you.

In 2022, PIVIUM executed an immersive experience within the Heard Museum Jacobson Gallery. Ready to transform your space? Let’s chat.