A Conversation with Republic’s Elijah Sheffield about his Museum of History & Magic
Our Republic Design artists are passionate about spending their days creating worlds and enhancing the work of their fellow artists. That’s especially true of one Elijah Sheffield – our newest designer who loves creating so much he spends his free time building and curating the amazing universe that is The Museum of History & Magic. We sat down with Elijah to learn a little bit more about his project, his background and his passion for history, art and magic.
So, what exactly is the Museum of History and Magic?
The Museum of History & Magic is a fake, digital showcase of historic relics – both real and fictitious – in a warm, cozy stylized 3D art style. The idea is to create a spectacle that engages the creativity and imagination of the audience, asking that they suspend their own disbelief for a few moments and engage with my website as though it’s a real place. Though I hope there is an educational component to each person’s visit, the true purpose of this project is to make something cool for the sake of making something cool. I love history and I love world building. This project is absolutely a labor of love.
Where did this idea come from?
I’ve always loved history. Had you asked a young Elijah what he would be, his answer would’ve been “Indiana Jones”. The concept of becoming a swashbuckling archeologist was super exciting as a child. At least until I learned it was a lot less like the action in themovies, and a whole lot more reading and note taking. Despite my dreams of action-packed archeology being dashed, I still held onto that child-like wonder any time I encountered a new expose on the Sumerians or a documentary on megafauna of the Amazon.
A few years ago, I was visiting my sister in NYC and she took me to the American Museum of Natural History. I immediately fell in love with the aesthetics, the history, the atmosphere, everything. It was a small obsession from the moment I entered. I have a bad habit of wanting to create my own version of something I love instead of enjoying the beautiful thing that’s right in front of me. I began planning my own museum after that trip, and I’ve spent the last few years collecting references, building my skills, learning the different tools and techniques to efficiently create my vision.
What kind of response have you had?
It’s been wild so far – the support has been phenomenal. I’ve had some folks reach out wanting to collaborate with me, teachers showing my work to their classes, major educational companies taking notice, and a ton of great friends coming through for me in sharing my work and supporting my efforts. It’s been humbling to see how my work touches people and how strangers interact with a completely fictional digital space.
You’re sharing a lot of behind the scenes on your blog and the museum’s social channels. Isn’t that a little like a magician revealing his tricks?
Showing how I got the final product has been a huge part of the vision from the jump. Before getting formal training, I was a completely self-taught 3D artist, and spent hours watching tutorials and behind the scenes content from artists I loved and trusted. Now I know what I’m doing (usually), and feel obligated to do the same for other artists, giving them a peak behind the curtain, showing them how I do what I do.
You recently opened up a Western wing of the museum – what can we find in there?
Yeehaw! The obvious approach would’ve been to go straight Dodge City. Dusty streets, gunfighters, tumbleweeds, John Wayne, hand rolled cigarettes, and call it a day. But the American West is SO fascinating and has such a deep bank for points of interest. In the new wing, you’ll find your icon gunslinging relics, as well as exhibits from American Folklore. There are even some creepy cryptids on display. For the construction, I pulled heavy inspiration from Bass Pro lobbies, and I think that will be instantly obvious. This was such a fun experience to make, and I hope it’s equally fun for the viewer to explore.
What’s your favorite part been of this entire process?
The most fun I have had with this is the art direction. Coming up with the exhibits, curating the relics, doing layouts and artbooks, finding solutions to my own self-made problems. It’s all so fun to me. The planning phase of the project where the possibilities are endless and the energy is totally potential is intoxicating to the point that at times, I delay executions of the ideas just to stay in that bubble of “I could do anything”. I’ve no shortage of ideas and I think EOL on this project won’t be for a long while.
Where else might you be taking us in the future?
I’m currently working on a development road map. A big part of the future of MHM is community. I want to build some kind of space where other artists, history buffs, fans, etc can all meet and help to make this idea something better. I have multiple paths laid out, and it’s all a game of trying to find the opportunities as they come. As far as specifics of the next exhibits, my mind has been wandering off to the Highlands recently.
Now for a few important questions that we received from our readers. First off, are you open on Sundays?
We are open during the week, on weekends, and all the other days in between.
Do you validate parking?
Parking is unavailable as the museum is accessible by magic portal only.
I assume that the large skylight in the lobby makes your electric bill skyrocket in the summer?
The electricity bill is peanuts next to the water bill after installing the waterfall in Legends of the West.
Do I need a receipt to return items to the gift shop or can you look it up on a credit card?
At this time, we deal only in doubloons and barter. And receipts are by all means necessary.