Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Visitors to the newly opened 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, offering guests a bird’s-eye view of team members playing on the field as the scoreboard lights up and such a 33,000 3D-printed fans cheer from the stands. Bullpens, dugouts, and press boxes are all lit up, alongside era-based billboards displayed in the stadium during the Dodgers’ heyday.
There is even a peephole, or ‘peekaboo’ for children, cut into the left side of the fence around the field. And as visitors watch the action, a large LED tile wall behind the stadium model flashes video and images telling 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 across the pitch, fans in the stands, and built-in graphics to highlight everything,” Spadaccini told the Journal. “And in addition to the stadium model, the LED tile wall helps boost the entire visitor experience.”
Since its launch in 1999, Ideum has created hundreds of high-tech interactive displays that today greet visitors in museums, zoos, libraries, corporate offices and tourist destinations across the US and some three dozen other countries. But the Ebbets Field exhibit marks one of Ideum’s most notable achievements to date, earning accolades from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which spent more than a decade planning the new museum to celebrate Robinson’s life and achievements. not only as a sports icon, but as one of the most important civil rights activists of the 20th century.
Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier when he made his debut for the Dodgers in the spring of 1947 and, after retiring in 1956, went on to break through more barriers in advertising, broadcasting, and business, including the creation of a bank dedicated to assisting Black citizens. His widow, Rachel Robinson — who turned 100 in July — founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973 to provide education and college scholarships for black students.
Rachel Robinson cut the ribbon at the museum’s July 26 opening, which featured celebrities such as Spike Lee and Billie Jean King, plus a keynote address from New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
The 20,000 square meter center contains some 4,500 artifacts and 40,000 historical images. But the Ebbets Field exhibit in particular stood out during its opening, said Ivo Philbert, vice president of the Foundation for Community Engagement, Partnership and Communications.
“The attendees really loved the experience Ideum helped create,” Philbert told the Journal. “Young people especially enjoyed all the interactive tools for navigating the field while listening to music from the era.”
Ideum recreated Ebbets Field from a computer-based drawing of the stadium. The company partnered with the design division of architectural firm Gensler, which developed the original exhibition concept, and wrote the software program that tells stories about Robinson’s career and activism.
Ideum then built the exhibition itself at its manufacturing facilities in Corrales.
“We built a cardboard prototype first to check the dimensions and so on, and then we built the model here and shipped it to New York,” Spadaccini said. “We spent three weeks there installing it, including all the electronics, the projector and the LED tile wall.”
The project reflects a significant revival in business activity for Ideum, which has suffered from the pandemic.
The company has grown rapidly over the past decade developing advanced multi-touch display tables that allow people to access visual displays and information with one finger. And in recent years, it expanded its designs to create immersive “video walls” that combine sensing technology with image and audio projection to turn entire rooms into interactive exhibits.
However, sales and rentals of Ideum display tables fell significantly when the coronavirus pandemic hit, as museums and other customers shy away from touch-based exhibits.
“2020 was a difficult year for us,” said Spadaccini. “Our sales have plummeted.”
But business has picked up again since last year, thanks in large part to some large, full-immersion projects, including a sprawling, two-building “Wildlife Explorers Basecamp” for kids that Ideum built for the San Diego Zoo. That project, which Ideum completed in January, includes more than 20 interactive exhibits focusing on insects and reptiles, using projection and screen-based technology to create things like an illuminated “Living River” corridor and a full-dome projection space that illustrates the migration of insects shows in vibrant colors that change from day to night.
“Children stand in a virtual meadow of flowers and plants, looking up at butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects flying overhead,” Spadaccini said. “The migration cycle then changes to night and the children see other species, such as fireflies.”
That project alone involved nearly all of the company’s 45 employees, said Ideum Chief Experience Officer Rebecca Shreckengast.
“Through projects like these, we have been able to keep our staff employed with very few layoffs due to the pandemic,” Shreckengast told the Journal.
The Ebbets Field exhibition, meanwhile, has provided Ideum with a unique opportunity to showcase Jackie Robinson’s legacy.
“Through that project, our work is now tied to civil rights education at a time when it is critical to tell Jackie Robinson’s story because the issues he faced are still unresolved,” Spadccini said. “It’s great to be a part of that.”
Ideum’s contribution helps improve Robinson’s story, Philbert said.
“We’re very excited about the role the exhibit plays in the museum,” Philbert said. “It really adds to the museum experience and the impact and legacy of Jackie and Rachel Robinson.”