Our Consultants

SmithGroup is an 800-person international architecture, engineering, interiors, planning and landscape architecture firm specializing in the learning, science and technology, health, workplace, and urban design and planning markets. In addition to its office in Detroit, SmithGroup has offices in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Madison, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

For the National Hurricane Museum & Science Center project, SmithGroup assigned its top two professionals, VP and Studio Leader Kevin Shultis, responsible for project management, budgeting and coordination with the exhibit designers, and Paul Urbanek, Senior Design Architect, whose feel for the personality of this project is both uncanny and visionary.

These architects, introduced to us by the exhibit designer, Eisterhold Associates, run a division focused on museums and entertainment venues. SmithGroup’s Cultural Studio comprises talented architects, planners, interior designers, and engineers dedicated to designing for the special challenges presented by cultural and educational facilities. The studio has become a major force in museum design for national projects and has an adaptive-use portfolio of museum and archival projects that is one of the best in the country. Interior Design magazine has rated SmithGroup in the top 10 firms in the country for education, museum and entertainment facilities for the last two years, while World Architecture has ranked SmithGroup #1 in the United States for Cultural Facilities. 

The SmithGroup portfolio includes award-winning museum and visitor center design for the nation’s most prestigious institutions. These projects reflect a knowledge of the complex technical and operational issues that cultural institutions face in today’s competitive environment, and recognize the firm’s ability to implement design intuitively, creating built environments that inspire, educate and entertain. Their proven ability to explore the bounds of 21st Century cultural education, and their pioneering spirit, helped launch a series of successful new institutions for a long list of illustrious clients such as the Henry Ford Museum, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Library of Congress, Science City at Union Station, the Long Beach Aquarium, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the International Spy Museum.


Eisterhold Associates is an exhibit design and planning firm specializing in museums and interpretive experiences. These senior associates hold some 250 years of creative experience in master planning and exhibition design, and are particularly well known for site-specific media and interactives.  Projects include the National Civil Rights Museum, Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum and Children’s Wing, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Federal Reserve Banks, Father Flanagan’s Boys Home, President’s House on Independence Mall, the Department of Defense Healing Gardens, and the Center for Technology and Innovation.

Jerry Eisterhold excels in his ability to conceptualize exhibit ideas that retain excitement and depth in the final product. His wide-ranging knowledge of subjects, technologies and techniques help him quickly grasp the parameters of a project and understand its potential and constraints in the early planning stages. He holds a BFA in design from Kansas City Art Institute.

Benjamin Lawless is a renowned designer and former Director of Exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution. For over 25 years he directed the planning and design of dozens of successful exhibits viewed by millions of visitors. His work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress. He has written numerous articles for Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space, Invention and Technology and Boating. He has collaborated as writer and stylist on 20 films for which he has numerous awards, including an Emmy for Best Writer for America’s Biggest Birthday Party.

Howard Litwak has been involved in exhibit design for 22 years, and has worked as content developer, project manager, and principal in charge for many projects across the US, most recently with EAI and as a principal with Joseph A. Wetzel Associates. A few of the projects Howard has been involved with over the years are Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, Florida Aquarium, Experience Music Project in Seattle, Aerospace Museum in Los Angeles, the California Museum of Science and Industry and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

Jan Adkins, a prolific writer and illustrator, has received numerous awards for his work published in over 37 books. He adds a unique quality to EAI projects by drawing on nine years experience as Director of Illustration for National Geographic magazine. Mr. Adkins has written and illustrated for Smithsonian, Harpers, Wooden Boat, Cricket, among others. He has written scripts and designed programming for the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel. 

Carole Hollman is responsible for overall coordination of a project’s details and resources, team interactions, and client communications. She is adept at seeing a project from the gestalt point of view, to ensure consistency in design in accordance with the project mission and vision. Prior to joining EAI, Ms. Hollman spent 10 years as a Senior-level Interaction Designer in the e-learning, children’s educational, and healthcare industries. Carole’s wide-ranging experience in graphic design and illustration, team coordination/project management and user interface design allow her to fill any number of critical roles in EAI’s design projects. 


Chora is a consulting firm that provides creative vision, clarity of purpose, and strategic management oversight for educational projects while raising the funds for their successful implementation. Their client base includes museums, science centers, NGOs, corporate foundations, and the entertainment industry. Chora’s hallmark approach seamlessly integrates entertainment and education values delivering distinctive, worthwhile experiences in diverse learning environments. 

With over 38 years of combined strategic management, education and fundraising experience, the partners at Chora revitalized the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, redesigning over 200,000 square feet of exhibition space while raising hundreds of millions of dollars from government, corporate, foundation, and individual donors.  

In their most recent project, The Ocean Initiative, the Smithsonian’s largest exhibition, research, and education effort, Robert Sullivan provided the design and story-telling vision for the Ocean Hall and the Ocean Web Portal, while together with Maria Elena Gutierrez, spear-headed a fundraising campaign that secured millions of dollars in support for the program. 

Maria Elena Gutierrez—Formerly the Chief Development Officer for the Smithsonian Ocean Initiative, Maria Elena was responsible for the vision, planning, and successful implementation of the $75 million fundraising campaign supporting the project. She led the Ocean Initiative Advisory Council and managed all strategic corporate relationships for the initiative. Maria Elena’s distinctive strength is her ability to navigate across boundaries; whether international (fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian), or between the profit and non-profit worlds, or between the entertainment and educational domains. With a background in consulting and finance, Maria Elena has an Economics Degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Yale University. She received the prestigious Best Latin American Investor Relations Officer Award from Investor Relations Magazine in 2002 and the Smithsonian Institution Special Achievement Award in 2004. 


In 2004, the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road and the Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Audrey, to occur in June 2007. They wanted a traveling exhibit, maybe a permanent memorial in Cameron Parish. So they asked Jill Kidder to coordinate that project. A few months later, hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed ashore, and what had been a local project in the Audrey Memorial would forever be swept away by these watershed events.

Jill Kidder has nearly thirty years experience in the tourism, hospitality and economic development, She and Darienne Mobley co-direct the state’s largest tourism organization, the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association. Robert Kidder is an advertising veteran, with almost forty years on the creative and research sides of marketing in tourism, manufacturing and retailing. 

Jill and Robert began in-houseCreative in 2000 as a marketing and economic development consulting firm to combine their experiences in advertising, sales promotion and tourism. In 2003, they worked with the Alexandria Museum of Art and its leadership to create and produce The Heart of Spain to honor Spain’s influence on Louisiana, celebrated as part of the Louisiana Bicentennial. The event was a spectacular success drawing, in just ninety days, nearly 80,000 visitors to see the $61,000,000 worth of religious art and artifacts from museums, monasteries and private collections all over Spain. In-house created and produced the 200-page exhibit catalog in Spanish and English, as well as the documentary shot on location in Spain, the media advertising, and graphics inside the museum itself. In addition, they coordinated production and implementation of a 1,200-page educational course of comprehensive study for elementary and secondary schools implemented in Louisiana and across Spain.

So their museum experience has served the NHMSC well, in addition to in-houseCreative’s deep knowledge of tourism, event marketing, and economic development. Since 2004, as Project Coordinator for the museum, Jill is largely credited, alongside Anne Klenke of the Graham Group, with writing the grants that provided more than $1.5 million to pay for the work you see here.  

in-house created the proposal requests that invited more than a dozen of the nation’s top exhibit designers to Louisiana in 2006 and 2008 to compete for this project, then guided the executive team through the selection process that chose the consultants you’ve read about above. in-houseCreative is responsible for the ongoing marketing of the NHMSC, the computer presentations, design and printing of publications like the Master Plan, and website authoring.






41 weeks 6 days ago
A free webinar on hurricanes will be offered to grades 4 - 6 on May 10 at 10:30 a.m. EDT. Register here: https://t.co/ZKpVrB1SvT
1 year 4 weeks ago
Rumor has it that Hog Island near New York vanished because of a hurricane in 1893. Here's what really happened: https://t.co/5TTLWDWSXu
1 year 4 weeks ago
#Hurricane names Matthew & Otto have been retired, and will be replaced by Martin & Owen. https://t.co/kmoSJazG2d
1 year 5 weeks ago
The return of El Nino is looking more & more likely - that means a less active hurricane season for U.S. https://t.co/Ciex63Xn15
1 year 5 weeks ago
The NHC is changing the forecast cone to help you better understand the impact of a particular storm where you live. https://t.co/1cYhaPqYYD
1 year 5 weeks ago
This animation by NASA follows Hurricane Isabel (2003) from its birthplace in East Africa, to the United States. https://t.co/YY29HKFBcq
1 year 6 weeks ago
NOAA put 170 years of hurricane history into one interactive site. If you're really into maps, this is for you: https://t.co/pbGU6gzAwJ
1 year 6 weeks ago
Here's 5 changes coming to the way the NHC reports on #hurricanes this season. https://t.co/Y6H1u1Zk00
1 year 6 weeks ago
#DYK A hurricane makes “landfall” when its center, not its edge, crosses the coastline.
1 year 7 weeks ago