CFC Media Lab and Seneca Screen 'Small Wonders: The VR Experience' at Major New AGO Exhibition

Updated December 9, 2016 - 'Small Wonders: The VR Experience,'  originally scheduled to run until December 11, 2016, has been extended. The VR experience will now be available during regular gallery hours on weekends only for the full run of the exhibition (until January 22, 2017).


CFC Media Lab and Seneca Screen 'Small Wonders: The VR Experience' at Major New AGO Exhibition

Toronto, November 29, 2016 – The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab), Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are pleased to announce their groundbreaking virtual reality (VR) collaboration, Small Wonders: The VR Experience. It will screen as part of the AGO’s new exhibition, Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures. During regular Gallery hours on weekends, visitors can don a VR headset and explore a 3D rendering of a miniature boxwood carving from the AGO’s collection. The experience is free with general admission and marks a significant first for the AGO – the integrated use of VR to enhance the exhibition experience.

Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures brings together for the first time more than 60 rare boxwood carvings from museums and private collections across Europe and North America. The exhibition offers new insight into the methods of production and cultural significance of these awe-inspiring works of art. Small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, these tiny masterpieces depict complex scenes with elegance and precision. Without fail, they inspire viewers to ask how a person could have possibly made them, a question that can only be answered today and a challenge perfect for VR technology.

"We know, by observing and asking, that AGO visitors crave closer contact with works of art,” says Lisa Ellis, AGO Conservator. “In particular, they find the Thomson Collection miniature Gothic boxwood carvings tantalizing: the details of these works are too tiny to fully comprehend from inside the glass cases where they usually live."

“Much of the success of new VR will hinge upon the quality of experiences being created. Everyone is searching for that sublime encounter one can only have in VR. With the boxwood miniatures and their high-resolution scans, we have found the perfect, transcendent landscape to explore in this medium,” says Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer, CFC, and Producer, Small Wonders: The VR Experience.

The AGO, CFC Media Lab and Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation partnered to create Small Wonders: The VR Experience. Using one of the AGO’s micro-computed topography (micro-CT) scans of the miniatures, the creative and technical team developed an experience specifically for the HTC Vive platform. Viewers can explore the intricate carvings of the prayer bead from various angles and in detail otherwise inaccessible to the human eye. The soundtrack, Treasures of Devotion: Spiritual Songs in Northern Europe 1500-1540, echoes the ambience of the wider show. The result: VR enriches the contemplative and immersive experience.

Integrating VR in a major exhibition marks a significant first for the AGO. “Thanks to the efforts of the CFC Media Lab and Seneca, our visitors can actually enter into one of the most intricate, awe-inspiring works in the AGO’s collection,” Ellis adds. “VR is new to the AGO, and this project builds on an intensive research campaign that began five years ago. The carvings were imaged using a micro-CT scanner at the Department of Sustainable Archaeology at Western University, and rendered and segmented using advanced 3D analysis software (ORS SI). The renderings form the building blocks for this VR experience. This extremely special, cutting-edge extension of the AGO's Small Wonders exhibition reflects a groundbreaking collision of science, art historical research and digital animation, and we can't wait to hear what visitors have to say about the experience."

Small Wonders: The VR Experience was created by Lisa Ellis, Conservator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts (AGO); VR Creative and Technical Director Priam Givord (Seneca College); VR Producers Ana Serrano (CFC Media Lab) and Mark Jones (Seneca College); VR Technical Team Craig Alguire and Morgan Young (Quantum Capture) and Tyrone Melkitoy (Mobio Interactive); Composer and Vocalist Anne Azema, Artistic Director (The Boston Camerata); Narrator Gillian McIntyre; and Micro-CT Scanner Andrew Nelson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Sustainable Archaeology (Western University).

The exhibition continues at the AGO until January 22, 2017, and signup for the VR experience will be available during regular Gallery hours on weekends only. To learn more about the Small Wonders exhibition and plan your visit, go to:

Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Lead exhibition supporters
Maxine Granovsky Gluskin and Ira Gluskin

Exhibition generously supported by
Hans and Susan Brenninkmeyer
David G. Broadhurst
Nancy Lockhart and The Murray Frum Foundation
The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation

With assistance from
Anthony and Helen Graham

Online catalogue raisonné and digital photography made possible through the generous support of
The Family of the late Ken Thomson

Social Media

Canadian Film Centre (CFC): |

CFC Media Lab (CFC Media Lab: @cfcmedialab |

Seneca College: @senecacomms |

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): @AGOToronto |

About CFC
The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) is a charitable organization whose mission is to invest in and inspire the next generation of world-class Canadian content creators and entrepreneurs in the screen-based entertainment industry. A significant economic and cultural driver in Canada and beyond, CFC delivers a range of multi-disciplinary programs and initiatives in film, television, music, screen acting, and digital media, which provides industry collaborations, strategic partnerships, and business and marketplace opportunities for talent and participants. For more information, visit

About CFC Media Lab
The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab) is an internationally acclaimed digital media think tank and award-winning production facility. It provides a unique research, training and production environment for digital media content developers and practitioners, as well as acceleration programs and services for digital entertainment start-ups and related SMEs. Program participants have emerged as leaders in the world of digital media, producing groundbreaking projects and innovative, sustainable companies for the digital and virtual age. CFC Media Lab is funded in part by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. For more information, visit

About Seneca
With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough, Seneca offers degrees, diplomas, certificates and graduate programs renowned for their quality and respected by employers. It is one of the largest comprehensive colleges in Canada, offering nearly 300 full-time, part-time and online programs. Combining the highest academic standards with work-integrated and applied learning, expert teaching faculty and the latest technology ensure Seneca graduates are career-ready. Find out more at

About AGO
With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’s masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002, Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to learn more.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Margaret DeRosia 
Communications Specialist / Digital Writer & Editor, CFC
416.445.1446 x 463

Emily Milic
Media Relations and Public Affairs Specialist, Seneca
416.491.5050 x 77018

Andrea-Jo Wilson
Senior Communications Officer, AGO
416.979.6660 ext. 403