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Innovative immersive Billy Miner train robbery experience at museum in Maple Ridge

The second of its kind designed by new North Vancouver company
Hands Up! opens on Sept. 10, the 117th anniversary of Miner’s Maple Ridge robbery. (Maple Ridge Museum/Special to The News)

The year was 1904. A Canadian Pacific train was making its slow approach towards Maple Ridge when the engineer felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hands up,” said stagecoach and train robber Billy Miner to the engineer. When the train stopped, Miner and two other men looted the express car, causing panic amongst the passengers and making off with gold dust, cash and bond notes – not to be seen again until years later when Miner struck again.

Now, guests of the Maple Ridge Museum can experience the chaos of that night and the manhunt and trial that followed in an exclusive and innovative immersive exhibition called Hands Up!.

The experience has been custom-created for the museum by Sea to Sky Immersive, explained Shannon Macelli, community engagement coordinator with the museum, who can’t wait for people to experience the exhibit.

The experience runs about an hour during which small groups will be led through four different stations, starting in the old caboose tucked in behind the museum, where the train robbery will take place.

Visitors can expect to be surrounded by the sights, sounds, and the drama of that night and the events that followed, said Macelli.

From the caboose, groups will be led to the basement of the museum, and then upstairs.

It is guided storytelling that is all audio-visual. No live actors will be involved, noted Macelli.

“As their tour through the museum space continues, they will encounter the posse of Sgt. Wilson hot on the trail of the robbers. They’ll see the burgeoning historic town of Maple Ridge like never before, and then enter the Kamloops courtroom through a sea of howling newsboys, overly dramatic reporters, and townsfolk eager to lend their support to a genuine legend and folk hero,” she described.

Macelli first approached Sea to Sky Immersive around March about the project. The company is new, and based out of North Vancouver, specializing in museum theatre experiences, noted Macelli.

“This will be only the second one-of-its-kind that they ever developed,” she said. And, added Macelli, it has been custom developed for the museum.

“They spent months researching Billy Miner, developing a script, hiring professional actors to record.

READ MORE: Outdoor museum a first for Maple Ridge

The experience is based on a successful show produced by the company over Christmas at Roedde House Museum in Vancouver called An Immersive Christmas Carol.

It has been designed and created by Sea to Sky Immersive creative director Joel Grinke, lighting designer Brad Trenaman, sound designer and composer Matt Grinke, and producer/writer Bill Allman.

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“Projected footage, photographs, and illustrations work seamlessly with voices, original music, and world-class sound design and effects to bring every part of the Billy Miner story to life,” described Macelli.

Macelli promises that Hands Up will charm, startle, and entertain audiences.

Hands Up! opens on September 10, the 117th anniversary of Miner’s Maple Ridge robbery, and runs until September 26.

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About the Author: Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows News Staff

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