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Moving the Historic Gateway into the Future

The space known as "The Gateway" in the Pier 21 Story exhibition is a favourite of Museum staff and visitors. Once the part of the immigration terminal where ship gangways would touch down for the newly arrived to take their first steps into Canada. It's also where majority of Canadian military service personnel deployed to Europe during the Second World War. Today, the Gateway is a monument to these journeys and memories.

In a corner overlooking George's Island, rows of luggage tags contain handwritten notes and photos are strung across a wooden wall. The opportunity to leave a message here has long been embraced by visitors. Stories of journey and arrival new and old, as well as messages of thanks and reflection are added to the wall for visitors and staff alike to contemplate.

A wooden backed Museum display corner of luggage tags and a large digital screen.

Now, a new way to contribute has pulled the historic gateway into the future. A large digital screen recently installed is running a special software that pulls key messages from social media and combines them in a virtual collage. Instead of writing a message with pencil and card, visitors can share their message on social media from their smart phones, add the hashtag #Pier21Gateway, and watch as it is appears in the collage.

"So many people have a personal connection to this amazing space," says Kristine Kovacevic, Interpretation and Visitor Experience Manager, and says the digital screen is a way for "visitors to share their connection, and learn about other people's stories."

The virtual display was launched as a way of reducing high-touch areas in the Museum, but there is an added bonus. Museum fans and alumni Canada-wide are able to contribute to the display.

"People across Canada get to participate in this great activity which builds empathy and understanding of others," explains Kristine. "Anyone, not just people in Halifax can share a message, photo or video about what the Museum means to them on their public Twitter or Instagram accounts, and add it to the wall using our hashtag."

The digital wall will be on site in the Gateway for at least the next six months, visitors should make sure to take advantage of this new way to share their story from within one of the city's most historic locations.