LOS ALTOS, CA (April 6, 2021) – To increase accessibility of the historic J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos History Museum looked to VirtualEyes Media to create two interactive virtual tours of the home. Pre-COVID, students were able to visit the house on field trips, and visitors could take docent-led tours during open hours. The house remains temporarily closed to the public, but anyone can now view it room by room in the self-guided 3-D tours through the Museum’s website beginning April 16, 2021. One tour is geared specifically toward 3rd- and 4th-graders, and the other for the general public.
In 1901, carpenter and Stanford student J. Gilbert Smith purchased acreage where the house now stands, planted an apricot orchard and built the two-story Craftsman-style home. Since completed in 1905, the house has been refurbished with an outside stairway and retrofitted for earthquakes and fire. Once it became a museum in 1977, the Historical Association furnished the inside in the style of a Depression-era home. Visitors could imagine gathering by the radio to hear Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat as mother sewed, father smoked his pipe, and the children engaged in a game of checkers. In 1981, the house was designated a historical landmark.
“We’ve been wanting to create a 3-D tour of the Smith House for a long time, but the pandemic made this project much more urgent,” said the Museum’s Exhibition Curator, Dr. Amy Ellison. “Since we weren’t able to have docent-led tours or class field trips this year, we knew we had to find a different way for people to experience the Museum. It’s been incredibly exciting to use technology to make our historic house more accessible to visitors.”
VirtualEyes Media, whose owners have long-term Los Altos ties, shot photos of the house similar to how real estate companies do when showing houses online. Members of the Smith House and Education committees provided content, including stories about the Smith Family, the architecture of the home, and references to the 1930s. Visitors can “walk” through the house and click on the stories they want to read, or access audio and video clips.
“We’re so excited to offer a new way to experience this iconic Los Altos landmark. And while it can’t replace visiting the Smith House in person, we hope it provides greater access to the house and helps to preserve the Smith Family’s history for future generations,” said Ellison.
Beginning April 16th, the Museum is also reopening its Upper Gallery and train diorama, and expanding open hours to include Fridays from noon-4pm.
To view the 3-D tours, visit losaltoshistory.org/SmithHouse.
Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.
The Museum’s Main Gallery is open Saturday and Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. The Upper Gallery and J. Gilbert Smith House remain closed. The gardens, outdoor agricultural exhibits and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.
Media Contact: Marketing@losaltoshistory.org
Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, email@example.com