Visitors to the Highland Village Museum in Iona, Cape Breton will get a more personal glimpse into the life of Cape Breton Gaels this year.

All of the costumed staff at the village have been trained in first person interpretation, and have had lessons from an acting coach.

Those workers aim to recreate the life of the Gaelic population in Nova Scotia, by inhabiting the 11 building village.

The goal is to better convey the story of the Gaels as they fled the hardships of 18th century Scotland and built a new life in Cape Breton.

"I find the people really enjoy it more, it's more effective to the people that are coming in," said Animator Sharon MacNeil who has been doing character research and taking acting lessons. 

"You can see that in their expression and when they're leaving, they'll say: 'oh my heavens, what these people when through.' You know you can hear them when they're going out the door. They're just amazed by the whole thing."

MacNeil is playing Katrina, a Scottish Gael in the village's thatched cottage.

The village has several houses that represent different eras, from Scots back in the old country, to fourth generation Cape Breton Gaels.

Interpretation Manager Jim Watson said it's the museum's mission to tell their story.

"Hence, we have kind of switched our animation programing from simply being kind of object based, collections based, to telling the story of the people through the voices and representations of the Gaels themselves," said Watson.

Emotional experience

Catherine Gillis, another animator, said she did a lot of reading from the museum's library to help build her character.

She also drew on stories passed down from her own Scottish ancestors.

Gillis said the first-person story telling is having an effect on visitors. Once, recounting the story of the hardships facing 18th century Scots, she had a grown man in tears.

"Some of the interpretation is pretty powerful up there. Just through telling the story, and you own that story," said Gillis.

Museum Director Rodney Chaisson said the move toward first-person interpretation fits in with a growing demand for experiential tourism.

The Highland Village opens to the general public on the first of June.