Elijah Summerfield tries out the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum's new Vimy Ridge virtual reality experience. | Liny Lamberink/AM980
A new virtual reality kiosk at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum is taking visitors back to the front lines of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in time for the conflict’s 100th anniversary on April 9.
Thirteen-year-old Elijah Summerfield was one of the first to put on the headset and stand on a platform following the launch of a new First World War exhibit on Thursday morning, and described the experience of “walking” through the trenches and up to the front lines as life-like.
Watch the video on Twitter here.
“It felt like you were actually in battle,” he explained. “You were actually the solider, it felt like actual bullets and explosions were going on. Even in my head, I still feel the explosions because of how loud they were.”
Western University Professor Jonathan Vance delivered a keynote speech about the battle’s significance in forging Canadian identity, and said the new exhibit gives a much-needed update to one that had been designed in 1983.
“We need something that takes advantage of new technologies and new ways of display that makes this a powerful story, the way that it should be, the way that it deserves to be told,” Vance explained.
“The First World War is now 100 years ago. There is almost no one left — certainly no one left who served in the war [and] very few people that were alive during the war — so we need to make sure it continues to resonate with future generations. Frankly a 30-year-old museum exhibit is not going to do that.”
Executive director curator Georgina Stanciu said not only did the museum have a goal for the year-and-a-half project of delivering an immersive experience to the public, but it made use of the museum’s own collections and archives.
“It brings a wealth of images from the First World War that are not all-known, very well-known, maybe too well-known images you find in the Library and Archives Canada website. Except six of the images you will be be seeing upstairs, all of it is part of the museum collection somehow,” explained Stanciu.
The Battle for Vimy Ridge happened between April 9 and April 12, 1917, and is known for forging Canadian identity.
“People recognized it right away that the Canadian corps had done something special,” explained Vance. “Part of the reason they succeeded was because they represented the country as a whole, working together, co-operating in a common cause, and that should be something to celebrate.”