Innovative tourism pilot uses technology to bring local heritage to life

Close-up of avatar of Lenah Field Fisher

Cobourg, ON – April 15, 2015 – Cobourg native Lenah Field Fisher passed away in 1980, but the story of the feisty activist is being brought to life through an innovative pilot that local tourism officials hope will be the start of new connections with visitors.

Today at Victoria Hall, Northumberland Tourism, together with the Town of Cobourg, unveiled an avatar—a life-like representation of Ms. Fisher that uses video technology to tell a first-person account of her advocacy to save the Hall from tear-down.

“This pilot is about using technology to animate public spaces through storytelling, the theme, in this case, being local heritage,” said County Tourism Manager Eileen Lum. “Northumberland is rich in heritage experiences, from hiking through our natural history along the Trans Canada Trail to touring long-preserved main streets, pioneer settlements and early architecture. We hope that use of the avatar in this context will bring our local history to life in a way that makes it both interesting and engaging to our visitors.”

In 2009, Northumberland’s Premier-Ranked Tourism Destination framework—a county-wide study conducted in partnership with Ministry of Tourism—identified core tourism attractors for the county. Although heritage sites were not listed as key attractors for Northumberland, unique on-site programs have great potential to engage visitors.

While limited resources and a heavy emphasis on volunteerism make it challenging for heritage sites to maintain consistent operations, impacting visitation, local tourism officials agree there is an opportunity to leverage technology to close this gap. The County recently began working with Cobourg-based CCO Productions to develop an avatar prototype for use in a variety of tourism applications, and decided to first test it in a heritage setting. Cobourg agreed to make The Old Bailey Courthouse the pilot site.

The intent of this pilot is to test how interaction with a replica of hometown native Lena Field Fisher improves visitor experience. The video of an actor playing the part of Ms. Fisher will be projected onto a life-sized cut-out, telling a three-minute tale about the history of Victoria Hall to anyone walking in close proximity.

“People want to go beyond facts and figures—beyond signs and information sheets— to hear from a person or connect with a place,” said Erin Wakely, Tourism Coordinator for the Town of Cobourg. “For visitors coming to Victoria Hall, this pilot is going to enhance their experience and make it more memorable.”

The avatar is stationed in The Old Bailey Courthouse at Victoria Hall, Cobourg. For visiting hours and other information, call 1-888-262-6874, or visit the Town’s tourism website at: http://www.cobourgtourism.ca/heritage.html.

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Attached pictures:
1) Visitor Jenna LeFrancois listening to the story told by the avatar of Lenah Field Fisher.

2) Close-up of avatar of Lenah Field Fisher.

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