Protecting And Enlightening History

Draper shades provide sun/glare control for museum exhibits.

XD Clutch FlexShades from Draper Inc. have a 1% openness factor, coordinate with the wall color, and complement the exhibits and historical character at the Coffin House historic site.

“The story of Levi and Catharine Coffin is one of the best documented in the United States when it comes to Underground Railroad history in Indiana,” said Joanna Hahn, manager of the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site. The Underground Railroad, a secret network of abolitionists and safe houses used by escaping African American slaves trying to make their way to Canada or free states, by 1850 had transported as many as 100,000 escaped slaves to freedom. To better tell the Coffin’s story, in December 2016 the State of Indiana opened a new interpretive center on the existing historic property. “The interpretive center serves as a way to help put the story of Levi and Catharine Coffin in perspective to the much larger history related to the Underground Railroad in the United States,” Hahn said.

The Coffin house in Fountain City, IN—then called Newport—was a main stop along one of the secret Underground routes, and the historic site is designed to give a picture of what that experience would have been. As “conductors,” the Coffins helped more than 1,000 freedom seekers find their way to safety.

The interpretive center includes an exhibit area and store on the building’s southern exposure, with a lot of natural light entering through the windows. “Light can be an enemy for any museum,” Hahn explained, “especially those that contain artifacts that can degrade due to too much light exposure.”

With this in mind, Lynda Anderson, R.I.D., LEED-AP, an interior designer of architectural design solutions for Synthesis Inc., Indianapolis, sought a shading solution to combat the heat buildup and glare and to preserve the exhibits. “Our shade design goal was to not detract from the historical character of the building or exhibits,” said Anderson. “We wanted to provide sun/glare control for exhibits, patrons, and staff. The shade design is very clean and non-obtrusive.”

Shades avoid readability issues from light spilling in behind the exhibits. Windows from the original 1836 structure use shades with extended valances to span gaps left by the shade headers.

Draper Inc., Spiceland, IN, wanted to ensure the tools used to tell the Coffin’s story were preserved, and that visitors would have a memorable experience while touring the museum. The company was chosen to provide the necessary window shades.

Since the window shades do not need to be operated often, Draper’s heavy-duty XD Clutch FlexShades were used. Anderson chose an alabaster color to coordinate with the wall color, which also complemented the exhibits and the historical character of the building.

According to Hahn, the shades—which have a 1% openness factor—control the light levels and offer the right solution.

“The shades allow us to use our lighting system more effectively to properly showcase the exhibition panels and objects. The shades will also be instrumental in assisting the building to maintain a consistent temperature without impacting our guests or exhibition.”

In addition to the glare and heat buildup issues on the southern exposure, windows located behind exhibits on the west side of the building created a problem. To avoid readability issues from light spilling in behind the exhibits, shades had to be in the windows and there was another possible problem.

“Some of the windows were salvaged from the original 1836 home and others built to match the original windows, which had side casings,” Anderson said. “We specified an extended valance to span gaps left by the shade header, which was mounted close to the window.”

Draper delivered, creating a uniform and cohesive shade design. “The shades blend well with the aesthetic of the architecture, which blends historical details with modern touches,” Hahn said. “The shades are easy to operate and seem very durable. A site like ours depends on durable materials that will last for years and we expect the window shades will only be a benefit!”


— Get more information on Draper products.

— Learn more about the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site.

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