Personal artifacts, biographic details, hilarious video clips, and one bronzed rubber chicken make Johnny Carson: The King Comes Home a special destination for comedy lovers. Norfolk Nebraska is Carson’s hometown, and home to the Elkhorn Valley Museum which has been entrusted with a meaningful collection of Carson’s belongings, from Floyd R. Turbo’s signature flannel costume to six Emmy Awards. I had the privilege to lead the creation of this new exhibit for the museum and serve as the exhibit designer as well.

Project Management: Anthony Esau
Content Development: Nathan Bartel
Physical Design: Anthony Esau
Graphic Design: Nathan Bartel, Graham Unrugh, Anthony Esau
Audio-visual design and programming: Anthony Esau, Isaac Entz
Fabrication: Upland Exhibits fabrication team (Dan Miller, Mark Andres, Isaac Entz)
Client: Elkhorn Valley Museum, Norfolk, NE

Johnny Carson himself greets visitors and welcomes them to the hot seat, like so many guests of The Tonight Show. On the reverse side of the central structure, the monologue stage invites visitors to perform their own comedy routine or follow in Carson’s lead and read from his cue cards. I designed the form of the stage structure and then handed it off to Isaac Entz to detail and head up fabrication.

I particularly enjoyed designing the television cabinet and shelving system to display magazines for the living room scene. Visitors can rest their feet and get some laughs from The Tonight Show presented on a retro styled screen.

Carson’s rolodex is as impressive as it is amusing. This enlarged interactive version sits next the real thing so visitors can flip through contacts such as Elizabeth Taylor. After I drafted the essential idea for the interactive, Isaac Entz took over to engineer and produce it.

And I’ll leave you with just a peak behind the scenes to the exhibit design process. Nathan Bartel developed the themes and narrative plan for the content while I created concepts for the physical forms and layout and made significant contributions to the graphic style of the exhibit. The project was paused after delivering this conceptual plan and once resumed, required an overhaul with new insights about the extent of artifacts to display and how to allocate resources within the project. Here you can see a few items from the earlier concepts and the revisited design.

And here’s that bronzed rubber chicken!