A St. Louis Arch Case Study of the Jefferson's Vision Exhibit
The St. Louis Arch is well known for its Landmark status, however many may not be aware there is a treasure trove of knowledge held deep inside. Housing a variety of enchanting and educational exhibits showcasing the vast history of St. Louis, the St. Louis Arch Museum is a must see for any tourist or native St. Louisan. These exhibits span over hundreds of years of St. Louis history, depicting events of great historical value, while welcoming visitors to the city.
Jefferson's Vision
Often being called “The Gateway to the West,” it should be appropriate that the very first exhibit in the Arch Museum would be “Jefferson’s Vision,” a look into the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This expedition to explore western North America, led by Meriweather Lewis and his co-captain William Clark, contributed to many scientific and social discoveries, as well as improving relations with Native Americans. They, accompanied by translator and guide Sacagawea, journeyed across thousands of miles of varying terrain, even mountains, seeing all manner of unknown flora and fauna.​​​​​​​
The Problem
As interesting as this expedition sounds, the exhibit itself lacked consumer appeal, and was difficult to navigate with no clear direction or starting point. Jefferson’s Vision is supposed to be the first exhibit you visit, but myself and others naturally ventured into it last, rather than first. The exhibit did not utilize very much imagery or visual stimulation, especially Native American imagery, and overall the look and feel did not incite very much emotion.
I drew inspiration from paintings and depictions of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea, as well as the terrain they traveled through – The Smokey Mountains, The Great Plains, and vast woodlands across North America.
To remedy this problem, I utilized engaging imagery and natural elements, brighter colors, emotionally charged language, and an all new floor plan layout to entice and guide visitors into the exhibit. To make it more organic, I used varying plant motifs and colors, and honed in on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which many people are aware of and interested in, but may not know much about. In addition I added more Native American imagery, which is another subject of great interest to most consumers and visitors. The font I chose has a natural and Native feel, which is carried through the design elements.

The Sacagawea poster infographic is one of the first elements you see when entering, but it is very textual, and the image of Sacagawea herself was very small. Upon reading, I had never realized she was a mother the entire time she was on the expedition. To solve this, I incorporated this portrait depicting her with child, courtesy of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, and made it much larger, taking up nearly half the poster. This not only catches the attention of the reader, but also tells a story within the design itself.

From the outside, it is difficult to tell what the content of the exhibit is, so I designed a poster for that demonstrates more clearly what the exhibit focuses on, which is the Lewis and Clark expedition. This poster ties in with the organic theme, displaying some of the environment they hiked through, as well as a silhouette of Lewis and Clark being led by Sacagawea.

The types of colors chosen are based off these terrains as well as the Sacagawea painting depicted in my design. Grassy greens, floral hues of red, pink, and yellow, sky blue, maize gold, light brown soil, dark brown branches – all to give the look and feel of nature.

For the floor plan, to add more visual stimulation and storytelling, I brought the Tipi out into the open and placed it near the center of the exhibit instead of it being tucked in the back of the exhibit. I added a path that extends out of the entrance to not only entice visitors to walk through, but to guide them around the full exhibit and. The colors I used for the floor and pathways simulate real terrain, with grass and forest greens, as well as fields of yellow-gold.

This redesigned 45ft long banner wraps around the full exhibit, drawing the visitor to physically turn in a 360o motion to read and view the banner, allowing them to take in the full exhibit. The images used are environments the team trekked through on their journey west, in the order of what they encountered. The text elicits a sense of excitement and danger with the use of words like “perilous,” “trek,” and journey,” enticing the visitor to read more of the infographics to discover what may have happened on the expedition.

While the St. Louis Arch Museum has a great many artifacts and information to showcase, the set up and utilization of the space as well as the displays and infographics are in need of more character and emotion. These designs bring forward the key points of the exhibit while maintaining historical accuracy, and offer new ways to look at the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This shift in perspective with the use of more visual elements and storytelling allows for visitors to experience this exhibit and the history of Jefferson’s Vision in a new, more profound, and impactful way.

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