Together with Sarah Pharaon of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and writer Sandy Lloyd, Night Kitchen engaged with Pearl S Buck International in envisioning a bold new approach to their historic house tour. In the past, this Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author’s National Historic Landmark home had been treated as a museum of her life and career, with docents engaging visitors in a conventional story about Pearl and the objects and spaces in her home.
Under Sarah’s expert guidance we conceived a tour experience that primarily invites visitors into a dialogue around themes of social justice and their own personal experience. Drawing from key aspects of Pearl’s biography and inspirational quotes from her rich collection of writing on social issues, visitors are invited to consider their actions and future legacy in relation to hers.
To support this compelling new tour, Night Kitchen produced and installed several media elements. Beginning with a dynamic introductory video projection, we combined archival photographs with silhouette-based animation reminiscent of Chinese shadow puppetry to tell the story of the first half of Pearl’s life spent in China. In the Library, the apex of the tour, there are six of Pearl’s most powerful quotes projected onto semi-translucent scrims mounted onto the bookshelves. These support a docent-facilitated exercise in which visitors stand to the side of the quote that resonates for them personally and discuss their reactions. There were also two tour stops with a dramatic voiceover reading by a re-enactor, capturing key passages from Pearl’s life in her own words.
Media segments are controlled with simple wall switches for ease-of-use by non-technical staff. All hardware was selected and installed to minimize impact to the historic fabric of the house. The tour culminates in an Action Center, where visitors are invited to take an interactive quiz on iPads to determine what type of activist they are. They can then take away “action cards” describing steps to becoming more engaged in social justice in their own way.
Learn more about this exciting collaboration and transformation in Woman of Action: Pearl S. Buck and the Site that Honors Her on the International Sites of Conscience website.
All exhibition photography by Constance Mensh.