Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco

Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco
Information Source for the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center

Friday, June 1, 2012

Critique on Viewing of Secrets Revealed: The Presidio Project - Ken Kaji, 6/1/2012

A  Critique on Viewing of   Secrets Revealed: The Presidio Project
An interactive kiosk a the Visitors Center, Presidio of San Francisco
By Ken Kaji, 6/1/2012

The Exhibit Experience  The kiosk with the secrets visual monitor display was physically adjacent to a connecting space showing a separate video (continuously running) on the various visitor’s attractions located in the Presidio Trust. The story of the First Class of the MIS as part of this history of secrets was deliberately ‘tagged’ as part of the kiosk display.
The Viewing Audience   We ( early attendees) who approached the secrets kiosk were few in number. It is assumed that under normal conditions, the number of viewers may come in small groups or attend as part of a larger visiting group , i.e. a class or workshop.  At any rate, the kiosk is designed to handle at most several individuals at a time. Our viewing experience evoked the following critique, that were put down on paper when our experience in viewing had time to sink in.  Here are some of our thoughts:
Kiosk Design  The kiosk itself, the large family photo, taken by Dorthea Lange, is stunningly beautiful.  The photo mural, roughly 7ft. x 7 ft. captures the mood of the pensive and emotional feelings surrounding the whole aspect of the Japanese evacuation from the West Coast. The background color highlights the prevailing mood by its Corten red steel hue which emphasizes
the feel of forced imprisonment.
Construction  The photomural panel is supported by a frame that is held upright and anchored onto a heavy concrete base that also supports a shelf rack with its electrical connections to the magnetic chips embedded into ‘cards’ that simulate the rectangular prisoner I.D. name tags that were placed around each and every internee during their evacuation.
Neckpiece as coder  By placing the collection of oral histories into a chip inside the I.D. plates and covering it on the back side with an identifying photo and other information, the interview recording, audio and visual, can be transmitted on the monitor screen that is placed in the photo mural.  The viewer selects one of six plates, and places it flat on a blank space that will trigger the transmission.  Furthermore, the sound is deployed in a manner in which the voice seems to be coming from the screen image toward the viewer which contributes to its realism.
Interactive Viewer Experience   The concept is that by having the individual viewer go through this ‘hands-on’ selection process by taking the I.D. neckpiece and making it ‘come alive’ – so to speak – and through that process, that it makes past history more meaningful and more personal.
Issues of Controls/Experience
  1. Densho, (the education-based, computer interactive program on JA oral histories) keeps its selection totally  electronic.  Selection through sorting through a list of names, or a photo data base, simplifies the viewer interactive process.
  1. The kiosk concept could eventually be  transferred to the internet format for selection.
But the idea is  that a ‘hands-on’ experience of interactive viewing can be done this way is questionable.   It is a trade-off.  Today’s and future class room children may prefer ‘physically’ turning dials and personally monitoring outcomes of what they want to hear and view.
  1. If the kiosk is used, it probably will used effectively only when site specific.  It will not be easily transportable  either on-site from on position to another as well as to other sites.  
  1. Pre-load the rack if wooden name tags are used,  and have someone monitor kiosk usage to prevent loss of the expensive tags. If future name tags can be created, then they can be made inexpensively so the loss of such chips is no longer an issue. But cheaper paper electronic tags also move away for the reality of the original wooden neck I.D. tags.  
  1. In the future MIS Historic Learning Center, the Secrets Revealed kiosk will be separate from the MIS story that will proceed it in the viewing sequence of the permanent exhibit, so the MIS story will not have to be part of the  ‘secrets revaled’ kiosk display.

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