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What to do in Vancouver: MOV’s Visible City

What to do in Vancouver: MOV’s Visible City

Want to take a walk through history? We have the scoop on what to do in Vancouver.

I stood on the corner of Granville and Smithe, with my phone held up in front of me and laughed out loud. A woman standing next to me, waiting to cross the street, looked up, startled.

That’s the thing about messing around with an augmented reality audio tour on your phone, you may occasionally surprise the people walking next to you with your outbursts. With the new Museum of Vancouver Visible City app, it’s liable to happen often.

What to do in Vancouver: Experience Augmented Reality

A kind of lateral extension from their neon exhibit, Visible City collects up stories from different Vancouverites around our heritage of neon signs.

“We found ourselves thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have some of these huge neon signs in our show? But of course we wouldn’t want to take them down,” said curator Hanna Cho.

To take in these great beauties in situ, the app features two guided walking tours of Vancouver neon neighbourhoods: Granville Street and Chinatown/Hastings Street. As you stop to listen to anecdotes about particular locations, there’s the chance to see the signs as they were with the augmented reality part of the app. Following the directions from the app, you stand in a specific place, often across the road from the sign. Holding up your phone, you will see an archive photograph overlaying the present day scene. It’s a bit finicky to get the right angle, but once you get it in place it’s hard not to exclaim a little. Hence my frightening of other pedestrians.

Experience the Museum of Vancouver in Your Own Time

As well as walking tours, you can access the audio clips and text sign by sign. There’s a chance to add your own stories as well. Thankfully, these are moderated before showing up in the app.

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The Museum of Vancouver, with support from the Virtual Museum of Canada, spent 18 months developing Visible City, working with local studio Switch United. It’s the first museum in North America to tackle augmented reality, and Cho is understandably excited about it. “It’s a way to see the streets as they once were,” she explains, as it resurrects old signs that are no longer in place.

This is what to do in Vancouver, if you’d like to experience the Museum of Vancouver on your own time. Incredibly, this app full of history about our city is free to download, and available for iOS or Android devices. Download it on iTunes or Google Play.

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