Over the past decade and a half, the New-York Historical Society and PBDW Architects have established a relationship aimed at working together to improve the Society’s visitor experience and increase its engagement with the public. One of our recent projects tells the story of America’s highest office by creating an exhibit about the Oval Office and the history of the American presidency, called Meet the Presidents. The highlight of the exhibit is an immersive 365-degree replica of the White House Oval Office.
The Meet the Presidents gallery programmatically supports the Society’s robust educational programs. The exhibit welcomes and educates 250,000 school children annually, as well as the participants in the Citizenship Project, a free civics course for those taking the U.S. naturalization test.
A year and a half of planning and research, and a brief five-month construction window manifested a richly detailed experience. The architects designed both the architecture and the interiors based on historic photographs and presidential archives research. This work includes signature Oval Office elements, custom fabric window treatments, a hand-carved marble fireplace mantel, a sculpted plaster ceiling medallion, curved millwork and plaster cornice. The architectural and curatorial teams worked together to integrate collection objects and to create a soaked-in-sound audio experience that replays visitor selected historic audio captured in the White House Oval Office. Visitors are encouraged to take a seat at the replica Resolute desk to take in the architecture, feel the magnitude of the office and to also have their photograph taken. In the off hours, the exhibit can moonlight as a rental event space with flexible lighting controls, audio/video integration, and a hidden bar. This is truly a unique New York experience executed at the highest level.