To tell the story of the first ascent of North America’s tallest mountain in our special exhibit Denali Legacy, we decided to use the original journals of the four men who went to the top. Guest Curator Angela Linn was able to track down all four of those diaries and arrange to have them loaned to the museum – the first time they’ve all been together in the same place in a hundred years.
Much of what we’ve shared so far on this blog has been objects and information she’s uncovered in the months leading up to the construction phase of the exhibit. But the reason for this exhibit is, after all, a mountain. And it must be represented somehow.
Enter the Denali model. Head of Production Roger Topp has been dreaming in wood cut since early 2012, envisioning a stage fit for projections of what more than a century of climbers have tackled. The four-foot wide model will be constructed of thin strips of laser-cut birch plywood (1/8 inch thick) glued in 28 layers.
Once the plans were drawn – to scale – and the pieces started to arrive, there was only one man with the patience, steady hands, and fortitude to put this thing together. Steve Bouta, our exhibitions and design coordinator, armed only with charts, measuring tape, cans of paint for ballast, and wood glue, has the job of painstakingly applying the layers of mountain terrain to our model.
The animation projected onto the finished model will illustrate the climbing history on Denali, beginning with the first ascent of the north peak in 1910 and ending with the 2012 climbing season. There are a total of 64 known routes. The climbs will be shown in different colors, depending on the rate of success of any given route. The thickness of the lines will indicate the number of climbers attempting that route each year.
Soon, visitors will be able to experience 100 years on the mountain in just a few minutes.