The tour is enhanced with computer tablets loaded with archive images, a virtual three-dimensional model of the stage, home movies and testimonials from people who attended the festival and more. It’s your own journey, in the new millennial style.
“If you get lost, don’t worry,” says the friendly older couple who appears on the tablet screen. “That’s also part of the experience.”
These people are Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, an elderly couple approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. They would be unremarkable if it were not for the piece of history that led the museum to invite them: Bobbi and Nick were the young couple wrapped in a blanket in the photo that became the cover of the soundtrack album of Woodstock.
The AR tour was designed by Antenna International, an interactive company that has customized visitor experiences for the Louvre, the Vatican and the Smithsonian, to name a few. They say they conducted or consulted more than 3,000 interviews for the project.
Few events in human history have altered the course of reality in the same way that the three-day Woodstock festival did. When Joni Mitchell wrote “We Must Go Back to the Garden,” he would not have considered a virtual reality tour.
But in an age where our favorite drug is mobile, it works. The museum itself has many photographs and artifacts, sure, but it also includes state-of-the-art exhibits, such as a floor-to-ceiling contoured screen showing images of the concert and a converted school bus that helps explain the various ways half a million of attendees headed 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 for the festival to take place on his land.
“I don’t like his appearance either,” he says of his hippie visitors in a clip. But his freedom to pursue his own version of happiness “is the essence of the country.”
Next to the main lobby is the Bindy Bazaar gift shop, named after the vendors who settled in the Woodstock Forest (a tieie tint for your little peacenik, $ 29.95) and Yasgur’s Farm Cafe , where you can order a turkey sandwich called Santana. Downstairs, in the basement of the museum, there is a special exhibition that was initially scheduled to open in the summer of 2020. “Lights, Color, Fashion” features great fantastic hippie clothing and psychedelic concert posters from the collection of San Francisco Bay Area Artist Gary Westford.
The hallways are lined with album covers and informative samples to all the bands that played the festival. Not just the big names – Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills & Nash – but folk singer Bert Sommer, the Incredible String Band and the five-piece quill from Boston, who played the first set on Saturday morning.
Arthur and Carolyn Calice are old enough to remember the media coverage of the event when it happened. They were peasant people who considered the Woodstock crowd “dirty drugstores,” Carolyn said laughing. He had just spent a day in early June at the museum with his daughter and son-in-law and their two older sons.
Nicole and Jason Beaumont live in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. (Her hometown, Le Roy, is Jell-O’s birthplace, Jason noted.) They brought her daughter Allie, 18, and her son Connor, 22. Connor’s girlfriend, Addy, also joined the group; as a self-proclaimed Deadhead, she was eager to see the Woodstock site.
Everyone was impressed.
“Honestly, I was expecting a shack,” said Jason, who proudly unfurled 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 traumas: you know what, we have the same things now. … It makes you wonder how progressive we have really become. “
He was surprised when he was moved by the goodwill that made Woodstock work, despite traffic jams, rain, lack of food and, yes, bad acid.
“You have a lot of people who don’t know each other,” he said, “and they can start harmonizing.”
James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.