Motion design at the Smithsonian.
Anything but stuffy.

Unearthing Arabia

America’s answer to Lawrence of Arabia, Wendell Phillips, was one of the first to research and uncover the ancient archaeological history of Yemen. Exploring the region long before it was politically or personally safe for outside adventurers, Phillips traversed the region searching for clues to The Queen of Sheba. Phillips and his team escaped with their lives, but were forced to leave many treasures behind. This exhibition stood as tribute to the items they were able to take with them, and the story of their time in Yemen.

Hieronymus worked with Kelly Doe Studio on motion graphics that were showcased in the exhibit Unearthing Arabia at the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler Galleries. The project culminated in large-scale video projections that brought to life the story of explorer Wendell Phillips in the 1940s. The final event focused on four large-scale video displays: the first acting as passageway into Wendell's Yemen, and the other three running large-scale on the interior wall, created to tell their own stories, and occasionally connecting to create one large, singular tale.

Kelly Doe Studio partnered with Berlin-based Studiokamp to create and mix audio taken directly from Wendell’s 35mm film reels. The sound slowly drifted in and out throughout the exhibition, creating a beautiful, immersive experience for those exploring the artifacts and watching the videos.

The videos were a mix of vintage footage, stills and motion graphics, with a strong conceptual theme that held the story together. The videos are available to view on request. Here we've selected highlights that give the overall feel for the design and aesthetic, as well as show some of the process leading up to the final.

The projections made use of 35mm footage shot by Wendell and his team.
The film was digitized and combined to tell a singular story
Film was scanned and manipulated to give a sense of time and place
Text was added throughout, driving the narrative as the intrepid explorers pushed onward
Wendell's personal documents were animated to help further the story

The story of the real Lawrence of Arabia was both compelling and exciting. How can we convey that to museum goers?

Multiple solutions for designs were slowly narrowed into the final

Early text designs invoke a sense of wind and desert.
In the end, we used a simplified version.
Early map designs referenced the era in which Phillips traversed Yemen, but were eventually simplified for a more streamlined look