Montgomery Bell Academy

Linking the Past and Present

Project Details

Client: Montgomery Bell Academy

Location: Nashville, TN

Date: April 2016

Project Collaborators: Hastings Architecture Associates, Cumberland Architectural Millwork

Equipment Suppliers: Planar, Dakota Audio


Montgomery Bell Academy is a vibrant college preparatory school with a 150-year history. To celebrate their sesquicentennial, the library staff (and keepers of the MBA archives) challenged Anode to create an interactive exhibit that could link the school's rich history to current events. The Anode team rose to the challenge by designing and developing a custom interactive application that creates digital links between the school's historical archive and the school's current social media accounts.

Presentation is Everything.

The library staff was kind enough to give our designers a quick tour around campus. When we saw the MBA logo inlayed in exotic woods, a student art gallery filled with remarkable creations, and a dining hall that revivals Hogwarts, we knew the students would expect a visually rich and refined interface. For the main interface, we created an asymmetrical grid that fills the screen with images from the archive. The mix of image sizes underscores the vast array and diversity of images in the archives.

Social Media Links Spark Interest.

We employed a "then and now" metaphor to connect archive images with news and events that are relevant to the current student's daily life. Each time a historical image is loaded into the system, the library staff adds tags that identify the topic or subject matter of the artifact entry. The interactive application then uses these tags to display related posts from MBA's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo accounts in real-time. This linking of content keeps the interactive content fresh while also providing a vehicle for sparking interest in the archive.

Always Fresh—Never Stale.

The history interactive was installed at a central focal point in the Patrick Willson Library at MBA. As with many campuses, the library is a central hub of activity for campus tours, alumni events, and daily visits by current students. With a prominent location in such an active space, it is imperative that the interactive exhibit always remain fresh and relevant--even in the attract loop mode. Of course, the library staff is also busy serving a campus of nearly 750 teenage boys, so minimizing the administration time is also paramount. The solution is a dynamic attract loop that randomly selects a digital artifact found in the interactive. Even in the attract loop mode, the artifact entry is linked with up to 3 recent social media posts.

Getting Students Involved.

Students are encouraged to leave their mark on the interactive by "up voting" their favorite historical images. Each entry features a Like button which tally's student votes. Using filters in the main interface, students can then rearrange all entries by popularity, by historical date, or by the date of upload. These features give students multiple ways to explore the ever changing content.

It's All About the Details...

To learn more about the process, ideas, and designs behind the development of the user interface for this project, check out this blog post: UI Breakdown: Making the Grade at MBA.

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