Virtually there

Mary MacKay
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A new DVD of must-see places in West Prince by the Community Museums Association of P.E.I. puts history in full motion with downloadable MP4 videos that can be played on site.

Historical day tripping has reached new technological heights, thanks to a new project by the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward.

The Virtual Tour of West Prince County DVD is the first in a series of downloadable media projects by the association that will showcase Island museums and must-see spots in a virtually there way.

In addition to viewing tours of sites like the West Point Lighthouse, the P.E.I. Potato Museum or MacAusland’s Woolen Mill on the DVD, people can easily download the more than 40 MP4 files onto a portable device to play while touring the real deal.

“At the woolen mill, for example, it takes you in and walks you through the whole process of making a blanket. So you are standing in there holding this (portable media) device and you can actually see this piece of (wool-making) equipment and know what it’s doing,” says Barry King, executive director of the Community Museums Association of P.E.I.

King came up with the DVD/MP4 self-guided tour concept about five years ago when he first happened upon the then up-and-coming iPod.

“I thought, ‘what an amazing device,’ and I saw it being used in this kind of way — that you could take an iPod into the woods, a landscape, a museum, anywhere and you could move through that space and have a personal tour with someone who’s expert in it,” says King.

“We could insert historic photographs. We could insert demonstrations of machines operating. We could insert someone talking about a particular (item) and insert images of it.”

King presented his visionary idea to representatives at Canadian Heritage Information Network during their annual meeting in Toronto that year.

“I actually had a few (sample) files done and I suggested we do a pilot here (on the Island) because this is the perfect place to do it. It’s geographically small. It’s got amazing history and beautiful landscape. It’s got museums that are in clusters.”

The network provided funding to hire students to help with the creation of the 40-plus video files for the West Prince tour.

“We would go and visit the museum or (the location), and if there was an expert speaking we would basically film them doing a demonstration or talking about the object or whatever,” he says.

Of the 13 locations featured, there are the expected museums and such, but there are also some off-the-beaten-track spots such as a heritage road, a beach and a salt marsh.

“(For the salt marsh) it talks about the animals, the plants, the insects, the fish and the landscape itself. The idea is you’re actually standing right there looking at this . . . so it really provides a good opportunity for people to learn about the landscape while they’re travelling through it,” King says.

“We also did the beach at West Point. And on that one we talk about poison ivy, for example. So they get to see it and get to know what it looks like. They also learn about how sensitive dunes are.”

The DVD also provides people with a souvenir of their P.E.I. tour adventure so they can revisit all year round.

“You can take it home and show people where you were and what you saw, some of the landscape. Or you can never have been here and get it as a gift and you can learn about (P.E.I.),” King says.

Two more virtual tour projects — one in Kings County, the other in Central Queens County — have also been completed and will be released next spring.

“Not only is it a great tour and a really nice way to provide people with access to information and a nice souvenir, but it’s also a record,” says King, who envisions these DVDs will be an asset to schools and used in other educational ways.

“What we’re doing really is we’re recording a snapshot of P.E.I. at this point in time and talking about its culture and its people and it’s heritage. It’s not just a product, it’s also an artifact in that we’re preserving it for the future.”

View a video about the virtual tour, click here.

Organizations: Community Museums Association of Prince Edward.The Virtual Tour, P.E.I. Potato Museum, Community Museums Association of P.E.I.King Canadian Heritage Information Network Alberton Museum

Geographic location: West Prince, P.E.I., West Point Toronto Kings Central Queens Charlottetown Alberton Community Summerside

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