Andy Kropa/New-York Historical Society

One of the New-York Historical Society’s goals is discovering new ways to make the past present, and make visitors feel involved in New York’s history. Well, how does taking part in pulling down a historical statue sound? Because if you get enough friends, you may be able to do just that.

From 1852-1853, Johannes Adam Simon Oertel painted the moment when the Sons of Liberty pulled down the statue of King George III that stood in Bowling Green after the Revolution. The dynamic painting shows the revelers pulling on the statue as a storm brews in the background. “Everything about it suggests something in motion. It lent itself to the idea of bringing it to life,” said David Small of Small Design Firm. And that’s just what they did. A monumental screen mounted inside the Museum’s entrance will depict the painting, which will become animated as visitors approach it. “So if you walk straight up to the children on the right side, they are going to come to life for you. And the little dog that’s in the painting is going to run over to where you are.”

Many people might associate a moving painting with a little book series about a boy named Harry Potter, but Small insists they’re going for something different. “We’re hand-painting all of the motion that happens, we’re trying to make it feel like a painting made of oil that moves, and not like a film.” And if you approach the painting with enough people, the entire statue will come down. “It’s all about making you feel as if you were in the scene.”

Small Design Firm has also created a number of interactive kiosks in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, working like oversized smartphones that let visitors explore our collections or learn more about the installation in front of them. Far from the days of the “do not touch” museums, the kiosks encourage visitors to engage with the exhibitions. “Part of this is to put as much as possible at your fingertips. . .It’s more like you are taking on a role.” It’s not just about making history matter, it’s about making history happen.

Do interactive elements at museums make you want to get involved? Let us know in the comments!

Related: New-York Historical Society Interns Take to Tumblr

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