Haley Sharpe Design navigates new visitor experience for Vancouver Maritime Museum

The Vancouver Maritime Museum and Centre for Digital Media (CDM) in British Colombia, Canada, has teamed up with world-renowned Haley Sharpe Design (hsd) to bring new and innovative visitor experiences to its St Roch display, now open to the public.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a not-for-profit museum and gallery that celebrates the profound significance of the oceans and waterways of the Pacific and Arctic. St Roch is one of its main exhibits, as it is the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America and the first to complete the Northwest Passage in the direction west to east (Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean).

The recent collaboration sees the creation of a unique ‘Wheelhouse Experience’ where visitors can pilot a simulation of St Roch through an Arctic pass.

“The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a special place where Vancouver’s Maritime History is wrapped up in its wonderful collections and archive,” said Bill Haley, company founder and Design Director for hsd. “I am so pleased to have helped unlock the potential of the stories that lie within its artefacts and to allow the visitor to experience the real history.

A touchscreen has also been developed where visitors can take an in-depth look at the ship, spin it around and pull it apart to see what each of the different areas were used for. This collaboration was made possible by the generous contribution of Robert Allan Ltd, a generous supporter of the Museum.

“The St. Roch is a Canadian icon and should be viewed as that, but it was also a living breathing ship with real people pursuing very dangerous explorations in tough and uncertain environments. By making the St. Roch come to life, to see what they saw and literally follow the ship as it sails through the Northwest Passage, is an amazing experience bringing the whole gallery to life with the sounds and views of the sea.”

The ‘Wheelhouse Experience’ is a replica of the existing St. Roch wheelhouse, with five screens replacing the windows on three sides showing a CGI representation of the hull of the ship amidst the ice flows of the Arctic. Visitors are invited to take the wheel and navigate through a simulation of Canada’s Arctic environment, past wildlife such as walrus, polar bears and narwhal. There are two paths through the ice to choose from as you experience the sounds and sights of the north. Both the Wheelhouse Experience and touchscreen are wheelchair accessible and situated beside the St. Roch in the Museum.

“These interactive exhibits have set the Vancouver Maritime Museum interpretation program on an entirely new course,” said Ken Burton, Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum. “They are informative, visually stunning and most of all – fun for everyone. The CDM should be very proud of this collaboration. Deep appreciation to the students and staff at CDM, Robert Allan Ltd and hsd from all of us here at the Museum.”

Over a period of six months, eight students from the Master of Digital Media program at the Centre for Digital Media worked with hsd and Vancouver Maritime Museum to bring to life elements of the celebrated St Roch.

“The work that our team of students did is excellent,” said Dr Richard Smith, Director for the Centre for Digital Media. “The one-year Master of Digital Media degree program puts our students in project situations with real clients and we encourage them to push the envelope of design, programming and technology. And they certainly succeeded on these projects for the Vancouver Maritime Museum.”

“The touchscreen CGI version of the St Roch will give individuals who, for whatever reasons, can’t actually physically explore St Roch an opportunity to see and learn about some of the ship’s unique features,” said Burton. “The touchscreen also highlights areas below deck that are not usually open for public viewing.”

hsd is currently working on several exciting new projects including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument & State Park in Maryland, United States and the British Postal Museum and Mail Rail Experience in London.