With an augmented reality tour, you can now experience Woodstock

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The visit is enhanced by computer tablets loaded with archive footage, a virtual 3D model of the stage, personal films and testimonials from people who attended the festival, etc. It’s your own journey, like the new millennium.

“If you get lost, don’t worry,” says the friendly elderly couple who appear on your tablet screen. “It’s also part of the experience.

The grounds of the Woodstock Museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.James sullivan

These people are Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, two grandparents who are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. They would be commonplace without the bit of history that led the museum to invite them in: Bobbi and Nick were the young couple wrapped in a blanket in the photo that became the cover of the Woodstock soundtrack album.

The AR Tour was designed by Antenna International, an interactive company that personalized visitor experiences for the Louvre, the Vatican, and the Smithsonian, to name a few. They say they have conducted or consulted over 3,000 interviews for the project.

Few events in human history changed the course of reality in the same way as the Woodstock Festival, which lasted for three days. When Joni Mitchell wrote “We have to go back to the garden,” she wouldn’t have had a virtual reality tour in mind.

Hippie fashion in the "Lights, Color, Fashion ”at the Woodstock Museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Hippie fashion in the “Lights, Color, Fashion” exhibit at the Woodstock Museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.James sullivan

But at a time when our drug of choice is the cell phone, it works. The museum itself has plenty of photos and artifacts, of course, but it also has some cutting edge exhibits, such as a streamlined floor-to-ceiling screen showing footage from the concert and a converted school bus that helps to explain the different ways about half a million participants came to Max Yasgur’s farm.

Yasgur, who died in 1973, considered himself a conservative. But when Woodstock organizers found themselves looking for a venue, he agreed to let the festival take place on his land.

“I don’t particularly like how they look either,” he says of his hippie visitors in a clip. But their freedom to pursue their own version of happiness “is the very essence of the country.”

Next to the main lobby is the Bindy Bazaar souvenir shop, named after the vendors who set up shop in the woods in Woodstock (tie dye onesie for your little Peacenik, $ 29.95) and Yasgur’s Farm Cafe, where you can order a turkey sandwich called the Santana. One floor below, the museum’s basement features a special exhibit that was originally slated to open in the summer of 2020. “Lights, Color, Fashion” features many groovy hippie outfits and psychedelic concert posters from the Bay Collection. of San Francisco. Regional artist Gary Westford.

The hallways are lined with album covers and informative exhibits about each band that performed the festival. Not just the big names either – Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills & Nash – but folk singer Bert Sommer, the Incredible String Band and the Boston five-piece Quill, who performed the first set on Saturday morning.

Rock cairns at the site of the Woodstock scene on the old Yasgur farm in Bethel, NY Notice the peace sign mowed in the grass.
Rock cairns at the site of the Woodstock scene on the old Yasgur farm in Bethel, NY Notice the peace sign mowed in the grass.James sullivan

Arthur and Carolyn Calice are old enough to remember the jaw-dropping media coverage of the event when it happened. They were farmers who saw the Woodstock crowd as “dirty junkies,” Carolyn said with a laugh. She had just spent a day in early June at the museum with her daughter and son-in-law and their two grown children.

Nicole and Jason Beaumont live in the Finger Lakes area of ​​upstate New York. (Their town, Le Roy, is Jell-O’s birthplace, Jason noted.) They brought their 18-year-old daughter, Allie, and 22-year-old son, Connor. Connor’s girlfriend Addy also joined the group; as a self-proclaimed Deadhead, she was particularly eager to see the Woodstock site.

Everyone was impressed.

“I expected a cabin, to be honest,” said Jason, who proudly displayed his new “3 Days of Peace and Music” poster.

Arthur Calice was philosophical about the visit. He read all the plates, he said.

“All the problems and trauma – you know what, we have the same things now. … It makes you wonder how progressive we really have become.

He was surprised to find himself moved by the goodwill that kept Woodstock going, despite the traffic jams, the rain, the lack of food and, yes, the bad acid.

“You get a huge number of people who don’t know each other,” he said, “and they can start to harmonize.”

James Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.


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