Will virtual reality draw more visitors to Stafford County’s historic sites?
Stafford County Museum and Cultural Center Director Sue Henderson say so, and she and a team from Access VR demonstrated a new virtual reality program for some Stafford County supervisors on Tuesday, Mach 7, 2023.
Henderson told PLN the tour showcases several sites around the county, like Government Island, where excavators took sandstone to build the monuments, and The White House in Washington, D.C.
The tour also showed the Revolutionary War ammunition production facility Hunter’s Ironworks, also known as Rappahannock Forge, the largest in Virginia then, on 6,000 acres in Stafford County.
Users experience an immersive environment and can manipulate objects within the program, such as a revolutionary war-era pistol. Henderson says the museum can scan artifacts from the private collections into the VR program, allowing users unprecedented access to the historical objects.
“The public will never be able to see this gun,” said Henderson. “It’s under lock and key.”
Caius Roscella, with Access VR, the firm hired to produce the program, said it takes about three hours to scan an object and input it into the virtual reality program. The firm has been working for the past three months to produce the program, which should be ready for the public later this month or in early April 2023.
Once online, users can don virtual reality headsets wherever they are or view the program on their computers to explore the program. Henderson says the organization hopes those who use the program will one day choose to visit Stafford County to see the locations in person.
During the meeting, Aquia District Supervisor Monica Gary discussed race. She asked Henderson why the stone cutters depicted in the Government Island scenes were all white, noting the stone cutters would likely not have been anglo.
The program is still under development. Henderson replied and promised Gary to adjust the program to reflect a more accurate portrayal of the stone cutters. “We did this program on the fly in about three months,” Henderson told Gary.
The museum and cultural center operates on a mix of local government funding awarded to it by the Stafford County government and from fundraising projects. Henderson says the virtual reality program is not a replacement for a permanent building the organization hopes to someday build in the county.
A film festvial at Porter Library at North Stafford will celebrate the county’s spot on the of fame.
The Stafford County Museum organization will host the festival in the community Saturday, January 21, 2023, at the library, 2001 Parkway Boulevard, from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Actor, writer, and anthropologist Justin Sisk will be on had to discuss the films that made Stafford famous. The film festival will provide light refreshments and a screening of the 1958 rom-com Houseboat, starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren., filmed in various locations in Virginia.
More information here.
The Stafford County Museum and Cultural Center is an online resource for those who want to learn more about the area's 300-year history.
However, the museum wants a building to welcome visitors, display artifacts, and continue telling Stafford's story. Sue Henderson, who sits on the museum's board of directors, said it would like to break ground on a new building in 2026.
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