The Library of Parliament has launched a new virtual tour of Parliament Hill to give visitors a glimpse of the Houses of Commons and the Senate as they undergo renovations.
A trip to Parliament is an essential stop for many visitors to Canada’s capital. But far fewer people have had the chance since December 2018, when the historic home of the House of Commons and Senate closed during a decade of extensive renovations.
Even members of Parliament elected since 2019 have only worked in the temporary chamber of the House of Commons located next to the West Block.
Now, the Library of Parliament hopes to give the public a taste of the building and its chambers with a new exhibition called “Parliament: The Immersive Experience.”
“We knew that there would be a whole generation of Canadians and visitors to Canada who might never have the chance to walk through those doors into the Center Block, such a historic building in Canadian history,” said Renee Asselin, the Library’s senior project officer. of Parliament.
“It’s an opportunity for Canadians to connect with Parliament… [with] why it is important in our lives and understand that there are things that happen in those buildings that affect us on a day-to-day basis”.
The first stop on the tour is a museum-style room with dioramas and interactive exhibits that explore the role of the Parliament of Canada and its history. The curators say they hope this prepares visitors for the second half of the exhibit, when they’re ushered into a large, dark room with 360-degree video projection for a virtual tour of the Center Block.
The tour takes visitors through the limestone arches of the Hall of Honor and past the Library of Canada (with its majestic white marble statue of Queen Victoria), the Senate and the House of Commons, all located just as they are in the real world.
While the narrated video tour highlights the impressive architectural details, it also addresses some of the darker events and issues MPs have faced over the decades, including two world wars, the Chinese head tax, and residential schools.
“Many themes may not be as majestic as the experience itself, but [it] it still shapes Canada’s history,” Asselin said. “It’s important that we continue to discuss those things and bring them to the forefront to allow us to continue to talk about them and to ensure that our history is represented in [the] how it happened over the years.
The Library of Canada pegs the cost of this new exhibit at $2.8 million and says it can accommodate up to 200,000 people each year, still less than the roughly 350,000 visitors Parliament received annually before Center Block closed to the public. .
Guided tours of the Senate building and the current House of Commons in the West Block are still offered, but only on days when Parliament is not sitting.
As with the guided visits to the Cerro, visitors book free tickets for the immersion experience in French or English. The video part also works with sign language and subtitles.