British Museum – Control Systems for Temporary Exhibitions


Over two hundred and fifty years ago, the first national public museum in the world opened its doors. Truly an exercise in astonishing facts and figures, since that time the British Museum has cared for more than eight million works of art, historical artefacts, and archaeological finds.

As a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture, the Museum’s website includes the largest online database of objects in the collection of any museum in the world, with about 2.3 million individual entries. Close to six million visitors come to the Museum annually, to see not only the galleries but limited-period exhibitions, which must be displayed to their full potential and the full museum experience must be seamless for all guests.

We were tasked with updating the Museum’s control system for the audio and video content of exhibitions, and our long experience with QSC’s Q-Sys Ecosystem led us to propose it as the flexible, scalable and open-ended solution the Museum sought. Euan Mackenzie, our Business Development Manager, comments, “The Museum were looking for a standardised control architecture that could be used for every exhibition, which is modular by design and which allows nodes to be added or removed for each exhibition as needed.

We know Q-Sys inside out as we’ve used it for so many things and it was the ideal solution here. Our engineer, David Prosser, handled all the custom programming for the Museum and now two exhibition spaces have their AV controlled by Q-Sys, running audio, projectors, BrightSign Media Players, video playback and PCs via dedicated portable user interfaces.

A key element of David’s design is that no system elements require reprogramming by external contractors, something that is usually required for each exhibition when custom scripting and controls are required. The Museum’s AV team have been left with a design that they can configure to suit their needs, in a language that is easy to understand.”

British Museum Interior

Clark Henry-Brown, the Museum’s AV Team Lead, commented, “Having known and experienced Autograph’s work primarily within theatre, I was pleasantly surprised as to the extent they provided a solution for our exhibition control system – it appears their genius knows no bounds!

They identified quite early on that we knew what we wanted and worked with us collaboratively to realise this – taking our long list of wants and needs to design a system that effectively answered them. The entire experience was a very straightforward and transparent affair, during install they provided training for the AV team to maintain and develop the system design for our ever-changing exhibitions schedule.

There’s a very much multi-faceted experience for users of our Q-Sys system for exhibitions, best-explained cross-departmentally. During the fit up stage of exhibitions, Q-Sys is used as a playback system for audio and does all our speaker processing. As we house our show equipment in server rooms, there’s a necessity to be able to mix remotely in the exhibition space, which Q-Sys allows. Also, to have full control of exhibition hardware and be able to mix on the fly for reviews with the exhibition design team is great and which our previous system didn’t allow.

Visitor Services are very much the end-user of the system, for who we design a separate iPad user interface for, which allows them the tools to troubleshoot any problems before they need escalating to the AV team. Similarly, for events and filming that goes on in the exhibition space the Visitor Service team can now mute any required media points – which saves a call to the AV team – every little helps.”

Clark concludes, “In regard to the visitor experience, there’s minimal downtime, in fact, we’ve not had an issue since installing the system. Everything sounds much better, due to being able to prepare a design months before the exhibition fit-up and then mix within the space – previously we’d have had to have done this in the minimal time we get in the exhibition space and very often there was a lot of guesswork in fine-tuning audio. The venture into Q-Sys very much stemmed from a few little problems with our previous exhibition designs, when Autograph proposed Q-Sys it seemed to answer them all.”

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