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Port Moody considers augmented reality to celebrate 100th anniversary of Ioco townsite

Centennial celebrations of the old Ioco townsite in Port Moody will include the installation of a public art project. But the project may only exist virtually.
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The Ioco Grocery store, at the old Ioco townsite, remained open until 1995.

A new public art project planned for the Ioco townsite may not actually exist.

Instead, the Port Moody Heritage Society is proposing an augmented reality (AR) project.

In an update about the project being presented to council tonight (July 27), the city’s cultural services manager, Devin Jain, said the artwork would use digital technology to impose elements like historical photos and related information when a real world scene is viewed with a phone or tablet.

In his report, Jain said such an approach to the art project would be less prone to vandalism, especially given the townsite’s isolated location.

It could also continue to exist if and when the property is eventually developed.

As well, he said, the artwork’s interactive nature would encourage visitors to explore the townsite and content can be readily expanded in the future.

While the AR project would be a first for Port Moody, an example of the technology in action can be viewed at Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake where Vancouver-based artists Hyung-min Yoon is displaying her virtual sculpture, Seedling (cedar), until October. Viewers must download the free app Seedling, scan a QR code then hold their mobile device pointed at the lake, where they’ll be able to see a digital image of a western red cedar hovering over the water.

Meanwhile, the Ioco townsite, which was originally built to accommodate workers and their families at the nearby Imperial oil refinery, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in September.

A budget of up to $60,000 has been approved by council for the artwork as part of the celebration that will also include the installation of interpretive signs for self-guided walking tours as well as park benches and publication of a digital book of collected memories and old photos.

While many of the townsite’s original buildings have disappeared or fallen into disrepair, the heritage society and community advocates like 106-year-old Mary Ann Cooper have been fighting to save what’s left as a unique example of an old company town.

The townsite itself is protected under Port Moody’s 2002 Heritage Conservation Area bylaw, but much of the surrounding property is targeted for development.