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One company interested in State Museum redo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Only one company submitted an expression of interest Tuesday for a state contract to design and install Disney-like upgrades to the State Museum, featuring animatronics and interactive audio-visual displays.

The lone bidder is RSL Commercial Architecture of Cincinnati -- the same firm that designed the current museum that opened in 2009, and the same firm that produced a 114-page overview of the proposed enhancements -- including a talking, animatronic cardinal named "Red" that is to serve as a tour guide, appearing at several points along the museum's "show path."

"RSL is in a unique position to complete this work quickly," the company's proposal notes, pointing out that RSL did the architectural and engineering work on the 2009 museum construction, and did the design documents for the proposed upgrades.

"Our design team is intact from our previous work on the museum and (are) prepared to extend and improve on the excellent exhibits already in place, while introducing some technology and show elements that go above and beyond the original," it states.

Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of the state Division of Culture and History, said Tuesday that division officials had not had an opportunity to review RSL's bid package, and could not comment on it.

"We will follow whatever procedures or process the Purchasing Division tells us," she said of finalizing a contract.

As an expression of interest, bidders were not required to include cost estimates in their submissions.

Bidders were asked to submit proposals for one of the areas of the museum to be upgraded, the Wheeling docks display. RSL notes that the current scene is a static display featuring a mural and artifacts representing baggage and cargo.

The company proposes constructing a portion of a riverboat that museum visitors could board. The riverboat would feature silhouettes of crewmembers behind windows, who would provide an audio narrative about the move of the state Capitol from Wheeling to Charleston.

"As a final touch, an interactive projection will create fish swimming at water's edge, which dart away when visitors step near," it states. "The water's surface will ripple and move in response to visitor movements."

In its previous project overview, RSL proposed numerous animatronic displays, with birds and animals, including tour-guide "Red," as well as a Civil War soldier, a museum conservator, and two animated talking busts.

It also called for several interactive video displays, including scenes where visitors could play virtual horseshoes, or appear to be performing in a bluegrass band.

RSL's bid package indicates the company has done numerous animatronic displays, albeit all involving amusement park rides, including the Phantom Thunder, Tomb Raider rides and Scooby's Haunted Mansion rides at King's Island and King's Dominion parks.

In addition to the State Museum, RSL's resume includes the National Museum of Jewish History, the Arabian Horse Galleries at the Kentucky Horse Park, and the Little League Museum.

The firm is collaborating with Design and Production Inc. on a number of museum projects, including the National Museum of the U.S. Army, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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