21st Century Technology Conquers the Plains of Abraham

21st Century Technology Conquers the Plains of Abraham

MartelloTower11Article and photos by Job Patstone

For tourists coming to Quebec City who are the slightest bit interested in history, the place to go and learn about it all, is the Battlefield Commission’s Discovery Pavilion located close to the Quebec Parliament buildings and easily visible from the famous Grande Alleé sidewalk cafés.

Visitors are greeted by friendly, bilingual staff who are ready to answer any questions one may have concerning the exhibits found in the building itself, most of which were all made by school children from the area. There are replicas of period costumes, Native American artifacts and even some wooden snowshoes made from the trunk of a tree.

The big attraction this year however, is the new technology being introduced for tourists and historians alike that revolutionizes the way one tours and learns about the famous battles that took place on the Plaines of Abraham, the famous Canadian National park embedded in this historic city. The park or, “Les Plaines”, as it is commonly referred to locally, was designed in part by the same team of architects who designed Central Park in New York City, and is one of the most history-packed attractions in Canada.

To launch the new iPad technology virtual-tour, a special reception was organised on July 19th to familiarize the population with how it all works, and although it may sound scary to some, it is actually extremely simple and easy, even if you’ve never used an iPad in your life. We were treated to a special welcome by two soldiers of the “Compagnie Franche de la Marine Française” (the French army of 1715) who were diligently guarding the pavilion against any unwelcome intruders.

Inside the building we were greeted by officer Jonathan Phillips of the Royal Artillery Regiment who, with much disciplinary fanfare, introduced us to M. Beaudoin of the Battlefields Commission who in turn presented to the approximately 60 guests, an informative dialogue about the new 21st century reality visitors guide.

After a quick tour of the displays and some time out to proudly explain that a Quebec City hockey team, the Bulldogs, had actually won a Stanley cup twice back in 1912 & 1913, the crowd was hypothetically blessed by Mgr. de Laval and then quietly driven to a place known as Martello Tower Number1 where the real virtual-tour begins. Our bus driver’s name oddly enough was Abraham Martin, the man who owned the land where the Plaines of Abraham exist today.

After arriving at the Martello Tower No.1 we climbed some stairs and entered the fort through a small archway and were suddenly transported back to the 19th century; more precisely the year 1811.

At a reception desk we are handed an iPad which contains 32 different ‘points of interest’ all pertaining to the structure and history of this fortified defence tower which was built in 1810 to defend Canada against an attack by our neighbours to the south which became known throughout history as the War of 1812.

At the time the Tower had no roof which left the soldiers exposed to the elements and the enemy.

If you have never used an iPad, not to worry; everything is explained in English or French, and the device is very simple to operate by using the scan codes placed throughout the building.

You can follow the exhibition simply by scanning the code on the wall (just above the tunnel) and then choosing the topic you wish to investigate. The iPad has the info and visual effects which can actually re-enact certain characteristics of any given action, just like in a video game.

Stéphane Roy, my private guide on the day, explained how the soldiers would walk around the top floor of the tower, scouting the area for enemy movement. The towers have four floors, and walls 4 metres thick. They were used for residency as well as protection by an average of 12 to 20 soldiers at a time.

I cannot cover all the information I absorbed on this tour in this one article, but by visiting the Discovery Pavilion / Tourism Information Bureau on Wilfred Laurier Avenue you can experience the same excitement I did by taking the guided tour.
You’ll be escorted by Abraham or any other tour-guide who will be glad to answer all your questions and offer you that precious little iPad when reaching Martello Tower.

It is not a question of who won or lost on the Plaines of Abraham, it is a question of how much history went on here and how much each visitor can absorb of it all.

For more information on the Plaines of Abraham please visit: http://www.plainsofabraham.ca

Categories: Arts & Culture, News, Opinion
Tags: Job Patstone, top

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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