Building a Museum in Eight Months – Part 4

Designs – Finding the Physical form This is the fourth article in a series about designing and building the Museum of Internal Auditing in eight months. The previous article covered our design kickoff meeting and how it helped refine our narrative. This article explores our design process and how we started defining the physical space. Design is a process and …

Building a Museum in Eight Months – Part 3

Design Kickoff Meeting – Putting our assumptions to the test and finding the right voice for the story This is the third article in a series about designing and building the Museum of Internal Auditing in eight months. The previous article explains how and why we developed an Exhibit Plan for the museum. This article is about how we started the design …

Building a Museum in Eight Months – Part 2

First Step – Putting together an exhibit plan The previous article in this series explores why this museum was important and why we wanted to help make it happen. This article is about how we started making it a reality. Research, writing, editing, scheduling, budgeting, more writing, and more editing. It is that simple. We were hired by the Institute of …

Building a Museum in Eight Months

First Meeting – Finding a reason why the world needs this museum When I first got the call from Judy Burke, VP of Governance for the Institute of Internal Auditors, I thought this was going to be a difficult process. She called me to set up a meeting to explore designing and building a museum about Internal Auditing. First, I …

Everyone Will Be a Hero

Summertime is a perfect time to visit a children’s museum. AST Exhibits recently completed designs for new exhibits in the Explorer’s Gallery at the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast. You can read more about the designs here: One of the design goals was to make guests feel like they are something special, that they are heroes. We wanted guests …

Write the Story

When I sit with clients for the first time to discuss their exhibits, they frequently begin the conversation by talking about different ways they want to tell their story even though they aren’t yet totally clear on what that story is. Sure, they know the subject and some of the plot points, but it is not yet a story. It …

Takers to Givers

Children's museum design and fabrication

Takers to Givers Shifting Imagery to build community leaders Takers to Givers is the first in a series of articles about the groundbreaking work we are doing for the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast. We Started with Pirates When we first talked to the leadership at the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast, we knew that we had some …

The Voice of the Arts

Who is the voice of the arts in your town? After graduating college, I went to work at a commercial classical radio station in Houston Texas. The call letters were KRTS and we advertised that we were the voice of the arts in Houston. It wasn’t just advertisement, we worked really hard to give the arts community a platform to …

Vitrines for Museum Exhibit Cases

Properly designed and executed exhibit cases will both protect your artifacts and allow your guests to see and appreciate them. They allow the artifact to connect your guests with your story and our shared past. While there are many factors that determine how well your cases perform at these tasks, we are going to focus on the glass or vitrines. …

Studio Makeover – What we changed and Why

When you are at your most creative and productive, how do you work? What sort of environment would help you stay inspired? How do you keep a work environment fresh and inviting? We asked ourselves these questions when we decided to renovate our design studio. The Problem Our Design Studio had evolved over the years into a space that worked …

Where the Arts are Alive

Music and Visual Arts Building at Austin College

Do you remember when you first experienced the arts as a living, breathing thing? I do. I was visiting Austin College in Sherman Texas as a high school student. I had been invited by the chairman of the music department to tour the campus. He took me on a tour through the music and visual arts building. What I saw and heard there …

How much for a hole?

Thousands of shells

One of the true joys of building museum exhibits is the wide range of things we get to design and build. In my 25 years of experience in this business, I have designed and built all kinds of fun and unusual objects and environments. Recently, I was asked to build something that gave even me reason to pause. A local history center …

The world has seams

The world has seams. There I said it. As I look around our design studio now, I am surrounded by them. Wherever two different pieces of something come together, there is a seam. My relationship with seams has evolved significantly over the years. As a much younger man, I felt like seams were something that had to be conquered. I …

Protect Your Artifacts

What is the best way to protect artifacts in a case? This is a question we get asked a lot. The answer depends on a number of factors, but let’s keep things simple. There are four major factors that will cause objects to degrade when they are in a case environment for long periods of time. They are ultraviolet radiation, …

Reliable, Trustworthy, and Full of Stories

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text] There are objects that when you look at them and touch them, you can feel their history. They have transcended whatever materials they were made of and are now something more than the sum of their parts. They evoke a time now passed. They hold memories of countless experiences. You feel like you can just touch them and …

Backwards History: Leading with the Story to Bring the Holidays to Life

What the Dickens

A local museum, Art and History Museums Maitland, recently called us with an interesting project. They had committed to making the theme of their historic property representative of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for the holiday season. They needed a material historian who specializes in the Victorian era. More specifically, they needed someone who was familiar with the period between 1844 …

Lessons from a lemon tree

Lemon Tree

From the Desk of Marilee Not long ago I cut down my lemon tree. Believe it or not, it was a big event. I had been waffling about removing the tree for nearly 18 months. It was obviously not healthy, but I held out hope for a return to its fruitful glory. I watered. I fertilized. I tended. And, I …

Hiding In Plain Sight

Traveling and exploring new places offers opportunities to take in and appreciate cultural resources. It’s funny: When you are close to something and see it every day, you lose perspective on its value. It’s the “you can’t see the forest for the trees” thing, I think. We miss the treasures that sit right under our noses. I recently visited a …

That “Other” Exhibit

museum exhibit design

Everyone who works in a museum has a favorite exhibit. You know the one. It’s that exhibit that makes you smile when you walk past it. The one you brag about on Facebook. The exhibit you protect a little more by moving back the stanchions when the school groups come through. It’s the exhibit of which you are most proud. …

No Capes Required


  From the desk of Marilee Emerson, Client Navigator I snapped this picture when I was in Asheville.  I had arrived on the evening of last day of Belle Chere, a local music festival. While I did not participate in the festival, I did observe a remnant of the event. Like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, I saw several chalk-scrawled messages …

Revitalize Tired Museum Spaces in 4 Easy (and Inexpensive) Steps


In the 21st century, museum exhibit spaces that may have “just” been renovated a mere 10 years ago can suddenly feel old and tired. But, how do you combat a 21st century problem when all you’ve got to work with is a 19th century budget? Below are a few simple actions you can take to re-energize your space (or at …

Design Kick-off for Children’s Museum

AST Exhibits of Orlando, Fla., will design two new exhibit areas in the Explorer’s Gallery at the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast in Jensen Beach, Fla. “Completing the gallery opens the museum to a whole new group of guests and unlimited possibilities for fun and learning,” said Scott Metelko, President and Founder of AST Exhibits. “The new gallery elements …

Well Traveled Exhibit

A Little Inspiration from the World Rock and Roll In the museum-exhibits business, solutions are often discovered in usual places. Rock and Roll was the inspiration for how to protect one of our traveling exhibits, although the exhibit had nothing to do with music. Diverse backgrounds can lead to diverse solutions, and that’s exactly what happened when we set out …

AST Exhibits Welcomes Marilee

AST Exhibits is excited to welcome Marilee Emerson to our team. Marilee rounds out our dynamic talent with her background in education, planning and client care.  Her skills as a relationship builder, facilitator and communicator make her an ideal addition to the team. As AST Exhibits’ Client Navigator, she will ensure our clients are informed and happy at every stage …

AST Exhibits Welcomes New Partner

Custom artifact case

AST Exhibits to fabricate, install custom display cases for the Wilton Manors Gallery for Stonewall National Museum & Archives July 2014- AST Exhibits of Orlando, Fla., will fabricate and install custom-designed artifact cases for Stonewall National Museum & Archives’ McNaught-Struble exhibit. “Stonewall Museum has an exciting opportunity to design the Wilton Manors Gallery space with the specific needs of its …

Ingenuity & Know-how Trump a Hostile Environment

Conservation framing

It is hard to imagine a worse environment for a special piece of original artwork than a restaurant, where it’s exposed to pollutants, harsh light, unstable temperatures and humidity, and even curious fingers. And yet … Art must be seen to be appreciated. Sometimes, that means taking the art to where the audience is. A private collector wrestling with this …

AST Exhibits Creates Western theme for Mennello Museum

Kiva fireplace in our studio. Fabrication complete and ready for installation.

The Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, Florida, relied on the skill of AST Exhibits when it came time to add additional interest to its galleries. Director Frank Holt wanted to add themed architectural elements to accentuate touring exhibitions that will feature the art of the American West this year.  AST Exhibits designed, fabricated and installed five elements to …

South Florida Science Center & Aquarium

Interactive Everglades Exhibit for the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium

[clientplace clientname=”South Florida Science Center & Aquarium” projectplace=”West Palm Beach, FL”]
The South Florida Science Center & Aquarium underwent a massive expansion, renovation and rebranding project in 2013.

A Cooking Show in Reverse

While discussing a recent project I was asked to give “an insider’s peek into how a museum exhibit goes from concept to an interactive display”. Well, it is like a cooking show but in reverse. Instead of starting with a list of ingredients and a recipe, we start with a picture of the completed dish. It usually takes several meetings …

“I love it when a plan comes together.” – Colonel Hannibal Smith, The A-Team

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together!

  It only took us 10 days to install the new exhibits at the South Florida Science Museum. That is not a lot of time considering the scope and magnitude of these exhibits. Like any other endeavor, it was thorough planning that resulted in a successful execution. About five months were spent planning this install. That is two weeks planning …

Our Tallest Ladder is Only 12 Feet High.

The tallest building in NYC will soon become the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 feet! As the final pieces of the One World Trade Center building are being lifted into place today the city is celebrating. The last couple weeks of a project are an exciting time. We aren’t building anything as monumental as the new World …

Earth Day (4/22/2013) is almost here!

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your television for three hours. After we installed our last exhibition we took some time to clean up the shop. Instead of just filling the dumpster with all the scraps and leftovers from the job, we took some extra time and pulled out the recyclables. After two full days of sorting …

What happened to February?

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Well, if that is the case, then we have been extremely busy “not working”. We “not worked” right through all the popular February Holidays. We missed Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day (sorry honey) and President’s Day. “Not …

Heavy Metal for the Müseum!

Last week was “metal week” at AST Exhibits. No, we weren’t blasting Motörhead in the shop or wearing spandex and leather. To be honest it really wasn’t even all that heavy. In fact, it was aluminum. Two weeks ago we started work on the custom aluminum railing for the South Florida Science Museum’s Science on a Sphere exhibit. Last week …

The New Year at AST Exhibits

It’s been a busy start to 2013 at AST Exhibits as we roll into the construction phase of the South Florida Science Museum project. Early last week Marc LeFrance joined the AST team as Lead Exhibit Carpenter for the SFSM project. Marc has an extensive background in all aspects of exhibit construction. His recent work includes exhibits for the Naples Depot Museum, Kennedy …

South Florida Science Museum Partners with AST Exhibits

AST Exhibits will fabricate and install exhibits for the 6,000 square foot addition to the aquarium and science museum. DECEMBER 2012 – The South Florida Science Museum recently selected AST Exhibits of Orlando, Florida to fabricate exhibits for the 6,000 foot expansion of their facility in West Palm Beach. The project will feature an expanded aquarium, an interactive Everglades adventure, …

Journey to the Center of the Office: Why is there spackle on the dog?

After staring at the same walls from the same desk for over a decade, the decision was made to rearrange the AST offices. First step was to sort through the shelves and cabinets. Somehow, over the years, our offices had become a Museum of Museum Exhibit Design. So, the plan was to fill the dumpster with outdated and meaningless stuff. …

Now Hiring: CAD Draftsperson

Job Description The CAD Draftsperson will create detailed construction drawings from design sketches and documents. Desired Skills & Experience • AutoCAD and/or SketchUp Pro • Familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite 5 • Knowlege of exhibiit construction techniques and materials • Familiarity with elements of design CLICK HERE TO APPLY Or email a cover sheet and resume to: CONTACT@ASTEXHIBITS.COM

Introducing AST Exhibits

AST Exhibits: No Story Left Untold

Prologue Like every good story, ours begins simply. It was always difficult to describe what we did for a living — one day we were carpenters, the next we were painters. Some days we were performers, others we designed lights. We had each fallen in love with the stage, but we didn’t harbor dreams of starring roles like a lot …

What is a Museum?

What is a musuem?

It seems today that in pushing the boundaries of immersive design and interactivity American museums are evolving into theatre. Some are even tossing aside the brick and mortar altogether. Merriam-Webster defines a museum as, “an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value; also: a place where objects are exhibited.” That definition …

Traveling Exhibit of Artwork by Rob Storter

We used a rugged-looking texture for the background of these panels to remind visitors of a time when even paper was made by hand.

Client: Friends of the Museum of the Everglades
Location: Touring Exhibit

AST Exhibits is in the process of designing a traveling exhibit of Rob Storter’s work and making sure it can safely travel the globe.

Is having a compelling and well told story not enough anymore?

Is a compelling story not enough anymore?

As human beings with millennia of oral tradition behind us we have a thirst for a good story.  But we must distinguish between what a story is and how you tell it. I am an exhibit designer and builder with over 20 years experience.  I consider myself to be first a story teller.  I rely on my clients to write …

Marco Island Historical Museum

Calusa style shell tools were researched and recreated by the AST art team.

[clientplace clientname=”Collier County Museums and Marco Island Historical Society” projectplace=”Marco Island, FL”]
The Marco Island Historical Museum is a brand new facility that opened in June 2010 with a number of temporary exhibits.

Naples Airfield Exhibit

The empty gaze of a WW2 pilot's dress uniform gives the engine of the T6 trainer plane one last inspection.

Client: Collier County Museums
Location: Collier County, Florida

The story of the development of the Naples Airport is a very important one to the development of Naples itself.

Naples Depot Museum Phase II

When recreating Frank's Garage for the Naples Depot Museum, AST Exhibits carefully matched the decorative roofline, the hand painted sign from 1927 and even found a Ford Model T.

[clientplace clientname=”Collier County Museums” projectplace=”Naples, FL”]
The challenge was to take a 2400 square foot room and use it to tell the story of other modes of transportation than rail in Collier County.

Naples Depot Museum Phase I

Angled windows allowed the Station Master to see trains both up and down the line from his desk. AST Exhibits replaced the original windows with "magic" windows that allow YOU to witness the action along the rails.

Client: Collier County Museums
Location: Naples, FL

When AST became involved with this project in 2007, the Naples Depot was just beginning the process of renovation.

Archbishop John C. Favalora Archive and Museum

St. Thomas University hired AST Exhibits to develop a portion of their library into a museum that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Client: St. Thomas University
Location: Miami Gardens Florida

The University needed museum display cases that met with their initial design concept for a new on campus Museum located within their Library facility.

Interpretive Outdoor Signage

When choosing a color scheme for graphic panels it is important to consider the hue of the surrounding foliage.

Client: Collier County Museums
Location: Collier County, Florida

AST Exhibits designed these outdoor interpretive graphic panels to endure hurricane force winds, torrential rains and the intense South Florida sunshine.

Grove House Sustainability Exhibit

AST Exhibits used visual comparison in this display to demonstrate the amount of water that can be conserved by using drip irrigation.

Client: Florida’s Natural Co-Op
Location: Lake Wales, Florida

Florida’s Natural had recently made many environmentally-conscious improvements to their operation and were looking for a way to showcase these improvements in their visitor’s center.