American Battlefield Trust (ABT) asked Interactive Knowledge to create a virtual tour of the Mary Thompson House, General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Provided with 3D renderings of the property, we created a “fly-through” effect of the grounds and the inside of the house. The entire interactive is brought together through a unique “scrolly-telling” online experience.

About this project

Dedicated to preserving America’s battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters, American Battlefield Trust asked us to help them create a unique virtual tour experience of one of their most important restoration projects. The Mary Thompson House was used by Robert E. Lee as his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. Because the battle was considered the turning point of the Civil War, the significance of this fully restored property is paramount to the Trust’s mission. On their website, they have a dozen virtual tours of traditional battlefields using 360-degree imagery. Still, for Lee’s Headquarters, their only preservation project to include a former residence, they wanted something more interactive.

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    Screenshot. Lee's Headquarters A guided tour homepage. Best experienced with audio. Background image is of the stone house.

The IK approach

The 3D renderings provided a detailed interior tour of the house, the exterior of the house and yard, and the larger property where it sits. Interactive Knowledge created a drone-like effect using Unity’s camera to fly through the modeled renderings giving the user a bird’s eye view of the exterior and grounds. The experience then takes the user inside the house and room by room explores the first floor.

The virtual tour includes the story of Mary Thompson and the role she and her home played in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on American soil. The story, presented in both written form and voice-over, unveils itself as the user scrolls through the interactive. Background music adds to the experience as Mary’s sad story is told.

Lee’s Headquarters is completely responsive for all of today’s devices and keyboard-accessible.

The Results

Battlefields.org is not only dedicated to its mission of preserving American battlegrounds but also provides a wealth of information about the American Revolution, The War of 1812, and the Civil War.  The site is very popular with educators and students and receives over 2 million visitors a month. Since its launch,  the interactive received an average of 432 users a month. Having an experience like Lee’s Headquarters brings a new level of engagement for history buffs and curious users alike.