Experience Parliament anew with NFB’s virtual experience

By Pat Mullen

With Canada’s iconic political hub closed for renovations, tours of Parliament Hill won’t be happening leading up to Canada Day. However, families, tourists, and patriotic Canucks can still roam the hallowed halls of the Hill with Parliament: The Virtual Experience. This co-production from the NFB and the Library of Parliament offers an immersive experience of Parliament for users to explore on VR, web/mobile, and Oculus. It’s a great resource too, for anyone looking to do some sightseeing while out-of-home adventures are few and far between.

“The NFB is very pleased to have collaborated with the Library of Parliament and shared its expertise in the creation of engaging experiences with cutting-edge audiovisual technologies,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB, in a statement. “Now, more than ever, democracy, the institutions that embody it, and their role in our society have taken on a vital importance. The public will discover our democracy in a new way.”

Having just completed the 360° tour on YouTube, the experience is pretty cool. For one, it’s nice to leave the house, so to speak, and revisit a site of our heritage I haven’t walked since elementary school. The trip is much like roaming the halls with an audio guide that encourages the imagination to run wild while one retraces the steps of historical figures who’ve walked the halls previously. Narrated by Jeni Ross, the tour takes audiences to Confederation Hall, through the Hall of Honour, and into the House of Commons with a quick stop in the Library.

Touring Parliament might not sound sexy, but the collision of history and technology lets a user experience an old site anew. The tour, for example, recounts the dramatic episode of the historic fire that engulfed all of the original building save for the Library—using the same demonstration of the Library’s sturdy doors that one gets in a live Parliamentary tour. There are doses of magical realism that one simply can’t get while roaming Parliament the old-fashioned way. Animated figures pepper the frame as a user cranes their head, looking up and down or side to side with the aid of a mouse, evoking the history of Parliament and its role in shaping the daily lives of Canadians.

It’s a worthwhile trip for users looking to reconnect with history or travel virtually, especially if the kids need a field trip during their extended COVID-19 home schooling hours!

Parliament: The Virtual Experience is available as an interactive experience, 360 immersive video on YouTube and Vimeo, and VR. (In-classroom experiences are currently delayed due to COVID-19, but VR kits will be made freely available through schools across Canada when health and safety precautions permit.)