Virginia’s Libbie Mill Library Installation Explores Centuries of History

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Henrico County, Virginia’s Libbie Mill Library serves as a gathering place for the community to connect, learn and share knowledge. Second Story, part of Sapient Nitro created a unique media installation that helps visitors tie the stories of Henrico’s past to their own present-day realities, inspiring them to form a vision for the county’s future.

Nominating Company: Second Story, part of SapientNitro, Portland, Oregon
Venue: Libbie Mill Library, Richmond, Virginia
Project: Libbie Mill Library Installation
Category: Education & Healthcare

BACKGROUND
For more than 400 years, Henrico County has been defined by the independent spirit of its people. From Pocahontas to explorer Richard Byrd, Henricoans have always taken risks and embraced new ideas, impacting the world far beyond county lines.

To celebrate this rich history, we created a unique media installation for Henrico’s new Libbie Mill Library, an experience that makes the past feel resonant, relevant and relatable for visitors.

CHALLENGES
The Libbie Mill Library wanted more than just a kiosk in their new space—they wanted a destination, a place for Henricoans to discover the county’s past and celebrate their role in shaping its future.

For a place so proud of its legacy of pioneering ideas, we knew we could think outside the box. We pushed the boundaries of physical and digital to produce an installation that’s distinctive and surprising, both visually and experientially.

But we also had to consider the crucial role the library would play in its community. Designing a space for visitors of all ages and backgrounds, it was crucial for us to balance our desire to push the envelope with our need to serve everyone. Our final design solution reflects Henrico’s legendary independent spirit while ensuring users will feel connected to rather than isolated from the rest of the library while they’re exploring.

Libbie Mill Library picSOLUTIONS
Our response was bold: a semicircular steel sculpture with seven integrated displays and a complementary touch-table that deliver the stories of the county through first-person storytelling, archival photography and evocative 4K footage of the area today.

When guests arrive at the library, the exterior of the installation greets them with an elegant map-based motion graphics piece detailing the county’s evolution. Circling around to the interior, visitors find an interactive wall and table experience that combines powerful interpretive text with contemporary and historical imagery to connect modern Henricoans with the county’s most important stories. On the wall, these narratives are written from the point of view of a person who experienced them, enabling guests to make a personal connection to what they’re reading. On the table, visitors explore content through the lens of cause and effect, prompting a deeper, more contextualized understanding of Henrico’s past and its relationship to their lives.

RESULTS
Our clients were thrilled with the final outcome. Kim Sicola, Supervisor of History Programs and Operations for Henrico County Recreation and Parks, noted, “When Second Story came in selecting stories that were relevant  and compelling, that made our job so much easier.” Of the experience she said, “It was intimate, transporting, I felt like people could really engage in that space and sort of lose themselves for a period of time.”

Perhaps most importantly, the experience truly serves the Henrico community. It reminds library visitors of something we all too often forget: that history is made by ordinary people, and that all of us have the power to make an impact ourselves.

PROJECT PARTNERS
Fabricator: MTek

Second Story, part of SapientNitro won the DSE 2017 Bronze APEX Award in the Education & Healthcare category.

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