Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum soaring into 21st century
Making Freedom Fly is a $1.67 million project that will enable visitors to interact with aircraft and metahumans
It’s a gigantic leap into the 21st century that officials at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum hope will help sustain the popular Mount Hope facility well into the future.
“It’s a project to increase the digital interactive and immersive experience of visitors to the museum,” said president and chief executive officer David Rohrer of Making Freedom Fly: Aviation in the Preservation of Democracy.
The $1.67 million project will enable visitors to learn about the museum, the aircraft and people who made significant contributions during the Second World War in an interactive, high-tech way.
Rohrer said that one of the challenges the museum has is to connect with youth and new Canadians who may not have had a direct connection to aviation during the Second World War.
He also said that there may come a day when fuel for their aircraft is no longer available and this is a way to preserve the flight experience going forward.
“This is a step forward into the 21st century.”
The project has two phases.
Phase 1 features an interactive dome with state-of-the-art projection technology.
The dome will feature three-dimensional portraits of six Canadians that a museum committee has chosen to feature as key contributors to aviation in the 1940s and the war effort.
Not only will their stories be told in a unique way, each one will be transformed into a 3D metahuman and appear like a hologram when they tell their stories and from 3D portals.
A seventh portal featuring museum cofounder Dennis Bradley is also in the works.
“You will be able to ask him why he started the museum and in the voice of his son (James Bradley), he will tell you how it started, why it started and what its aim was.” Rohrer said.
Phase 1 is expected to be completed by December.
The second phase features an interactive cinema where visitors can select film clips on a digital screen and an augmented reality experience where they can use their smart devices and get what amounts to an inside scan of the museum’s Avro Lancaster or C-47, supported by audio tracks and other information.
It is expected to be completed by March 2024.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into this,” said Stacey Spiegel, chief executive officer of Parallel World Labs Inc, the company creating the displays. “We’re using state-of-the-art technologies and nothing like this exists elsewhere in the country.”
Spiegel said he is looking to hire local talent with expertise in industrial design, architecture, software development and 3D programming.
He figures the metahumans, which are reconstructed, sculpted avatars to look like people from 1940, will take thousands of hours to create.
“There’s a new A.I. development that’s been using multi-camera video, capturing the actor through a series of videos and feeding that into the A.I. system you can replicate the motion in a 3D space that could be mapped on.”
Supporting the project is a $1 million donation from retired Ancaster residents Michael and Carol Desnoyers, who ran an electronic, engineering and manufacturing company in Burlington.
“I’ve always been a military buff,” said Michael “My wife and I are quite active in charitable gift giving, and I decided I wanted to go up (to the museum) and see what I could do to help.”
Carol noted she used to take their children to the museum and would like their grandchildren to enjoy the interactive addition.
“It was important that we carry on that and upgrade (the museum) to make it relevant to the new generation,” she said.
Michael said they are excited to see what upgrades.
“When it’s all said and done, it will take what is already a jewel in Hamilton and just put an amazing polish on it,” he said. “It will be one of the foremost military flight museums in North America, I think.”
Heritage Canada is contributing $548,000 to the project to help the museum digitize its records.
Rohrer said the remaining $130,000 required will be raised by the museum.
By Mark Newman