GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 155-6
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


LOXTON, Jason, Mathematics, Physics, and Geology, Cape Breton University, 1250 Grand Lake Rd., Sydney, NS B1P 6L2, Canada

The Cape Breton Miners Museum, in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia—formerly Canada’s main coal producing region—is a popular local tourist attraction and historical education centre. The centerpiece of the museum is the Ocean Deeps Colliery, a 1930s-style room and pillar coal mine constructed specifically for experiential education. Tours of the mine are led by retired local coal miners, who tell personal stories of working in Cape Breton coal mines, creating an authentic experience that cannot be reproduced through traditional museum displays. The mine’s irregular walking surface and low ceilings (1.25 m), however, make it inaccessible for people with mobility issues or fear of enclosed spaces. To increase accessibility, 360-degree videos of the underground tour were recorded, and visitors who otherwise could not take the tour were offered the opportunity to experience it using virtual reality goggles. Participant satisfaction and comfort with the technology were evaluated after the virtual tour.

While virtual tours are not new, the technological requirements and cost have until recently made them impractical for smaller interpretive centers. For budgetary reasons and as a proof of concept, the Museum’s VR experience was created using only consumer-level technology, with a total hardware cost of ~$600 USD. The resulting panoramic videos are also viewable on phones or computers, making them suitable for online or classroom outreach and education. In addition to increasing accessibility, these immersive videos archive the intimate human dimension of the guided tour, preserving for posterity the important cultural geoheritage represented by the miners themselves.