TMBT : Gibson Stars and Guitars Interactive

BY Chris Lee

We started the "Take Me Back Tuesday" series to remember the lessons learned from some of our favorite past projects.

We recently started an initiative called “Take Me Back Tuesday” to educate our newer employees on Anode’s history of developing interactive museum exhibits. This week we looked back to 1995. The year that Toy Story hit theaters; the DVD format was introduced; and the year Gibson Guitars turned 100.

Starting in 1994, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum approached us to produce an interactive for Gibson Guitar’s 100th anniversary. The “Gibson Stars and Guitars” interactive that debuted the following year was actually the first interactive we ever produced for the Hall. At that time, the Hall was located on Music Row in a location that is now the parking lot for BMI.


The Gibson Stars and Guitars exhibit included 15 physical guitars displayed on a wall. These precious instruments were obviously too expensive and fragile for visitors to touch, so we designed and developed a 15-inch touchscreen exhibit that allowed visitors to learn the story behind each instrument–and perhaps more importantly, hear the instrument in action.


Touchscreen displays were still relatively new during the early and mid 90’s, so we coordinated a voiceover session to record voice prompts from guitar legend Chet Atkins himself to reassure visitors that it was ok to touch this new kind of exhibit.

Involving a personality like Chet Atkins brought authenticity, expertise and passion to the project. When you look past the veneer of the 90’s graphic stylings, you realize that these timeless elements are what lead to an engaging visitor experience.

There were also two important features that made this interactive application one of our most unusual projects at the time. For the very first time we were able to embed digital video into the programming. Previous technology required us to use bulky LaserDisc players to store and playback video assets.

The second aspect was more far reaching and impactful on our ongoing philosophy for interactive experiences. The Gibson Stars and Guitars exhibit was one of the the first exhibits for the Hall where we integrated digital media into the physical museum experience. Rather than creating separate experiences for viewing the physical guitars and interacting with the digital content, we worked with the Hall to establish the interactive experience as the centerpiece of the physical exhibit.

Twenty years later, the Gibson Stars and Guitars exhibit, like the original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum building, is long gone. However, the lessons that live on for a new generation of Anodians is the value of subject matter expertise and the impact of integrating both physical and digital experiences.

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