Longhouse Replica

KiwiMill was commissioned to create an 11 foot longhouse replica for the Seneca Arts and Cultural Center this past summer. The Seneca Arts and Cultural Center is a newly built interpretive museum located on the existing Ganandogan State Historical Site in upstate New York. The center provides year round access to both the historical and contemporary culture of the Seneca Nation as told by their people.

The longhouse replica needed to be as realistic looking as possible at a very large scale. Much research went into the materials that would be used to construct the longhouse and also the furnishings and artifacts that would go in it.

Our model makers chose a heavy weight handmade paper, which was dyed in house,  to replicate the bark of the longhouse and imported willow sticks for the frame. Real leather strips were used to tie the frame together, much like the actual longhouse would have been constructed over 300 years ago.

Once the actual structure of the longhouse replica was decided, the objects inside were hand built in the shop. Small scale ladders, platform beds, and tiny tools, weapons and lacrosse sticks were made out of natural materials.

Fur samples were chosen for the correct nap and scale. Small blankets were hand woven to replicate Seneca patterns. An artist was found to make hyper realistic sculptures of food – salmon, white corn, squash and dried meats. Glowing fire pits were created using cut glass and votive bulbs.

The model required electronics to light different scenes within the longhouse. Museum patrons would push a button on the interactive base of the model and corresponding vignettes would light up in the longhouse.

Upon completion, the model was installed on site at the gallery. The frame was assembled onto its pre-fabricated base and the electronics were integrated underneath. Once the outside was in place, the artifacts were staged inside the model following CAD drawings provided by the designer. The longhouse replica was complete.

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