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Museum wins technology award for ‘Vapes’

November 29th, 2021

Detail from the timeline in the 'Vapes' exhibit at Kauffman Museum

Kauffman Museum took home another award from the Kansas Museums Association (KMA), this time for the use of technology in its current special exhibit.

“Vapes: Marketing an Addiction” is currently at the museum on the Bethel College campus.

At the KMA annual conference in Lawrence, Nov. 3-5, Kauffman Museum won a Technology Award for “Vapes,” which has five electronic or digital components.

“Vapes” examines three intertwined narratives: the rise and fall of cigarette smoking and associated advertising in the 20th century; the advent of e-cigarettes in the 21st century with new social media-based marketing strategies driving this emerging market; and the challenges of addiction, nicotine, quitting nicotine, and being an advocate for change.

The exhibit includes a video about STAND, a group of Newton-area youth who joined community leaders to successfully advocate for a local policy that raised the minimum age for purchasing e-cigarettes.

It also provides space for visitors to share their stories and questions.

“Kauffman Museum has developed a reputation for timeless, minimalist exhibit design, coupled with the straightforward use of materials and fabrication processes,” said Chuck Regier, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits.

“With this project, we wanted to stretch outside our comfort zone to tell the 21st-century story of e-cigarettes by creating a space that would appeal to an ‘underage’ audience while helping older viewers feel the energy and excitement created by e-cigarette marketing.”

The museum design and fabrication team achieved this goal through integrating audiovisual units into the display modules.

Three of the units deliver audiovisual content not simply through a monitor – the hardware includes an iPad Square POS unit in a “vape store,” a monitor presented as a vintage TV, and content delivered on an iPhone the way a teenager would follow influencers on social media.

Using recent innovation in LED strip lighting and RGB color control, coupled with the possibilities of CNC router technology, the team created an 84-inch-wide, multilayered timeline/graph of the history and evolution of tobacco marketing and its detrimental impact on health. 

“A related goal for the project was to empower younger staff, recently added to the Kauffman Museum team, to experiment with both the visual identity and digital components of the exhibit,” Andi Schmidt Andres, Kauffman Museum director, said.

“The resulting project has been a successful and invigorating collaboration between senior and retired museum staff, younger museum staff and the neighboring business, Flint Hills Design.”

Financial supporters of the “Vapes” exhibit production are the Kauffman Museum Association; NMC Health, Newton; the Newton Et Cetera Shop; the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (a division of the Kansas Department of Commerce); and Butler Rural Electric Cooperative.

“Vapes” is on display through January, after which it will be available as a traveling exhibit.

For more information, e-mail or call 316-283-1612.

Kauffman Museum is located at the corner of Main and 27th Streets in North Newton. Regular hours are Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the permanent and special exhibits is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. Visit or Kauffman Museum’s Facebook page to learn more.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.