Phase 1 – JISC (Complete)

The first phase of this project was a year-long project that started in October 2008, to build a virtual 3D model in Second Life of the Pompeii Court of the Sydenham Crystal Palace. It was funded by JISC as part of their ‘Enriching Digital Resources’ theme, a strand of their ‘Digitisation’ programme. The Pompeii Court was a complete life-size model of an ancient Roman house, housing a collection of copies of Roman paintings. The house and the paintings were based on the ruins preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in the Roman town of Pompeii. It was built in 1854 as part of the Fine Arts Court in the Crystal Palace in South London and it was destroyed when the Palace burnt down in 1936.

The aim of the project was to build a digitised collection of the material that was in the Pompeii Court and to create an interactive online space to house it. Visitors are able to tour the Court and interact with us, other visitors and the objects on display. Through this phase, we considered how the social and educational experiences offered by our Model compare with the successes and failures of the original Court, which itself was a Victorian experiment in education and reconstruction.

You can find more information on this phase of the project using the links on the right. We also kept a blog, recording each step of the way which you can also access from the lower menu on the right.



31 Responses to “Phase 1 – JISC (Complete)”

  1. Giles Gaffney Says:


    It might be an idea to gather up as many pictures of the Pompeiian House as possible, including the 2 in colour. I could check all the ones I have, but the problem is: some rooms were never photographed because of the poor lighting.



  2. Shelley Hales Says:

    Hi Giles,

    Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

    Yes, the rear of the house is a nightmare to recreate – from the guidebooks, we have a good idea of the colour schemes and we’ve identified the majority of the panel paintings from written descriptions so we can replicate those. But the detail of the decorative schemes is lost.

    The other slight difficulty is, of course, that a lot of the better photographs are of the Buckland overhaul and it’s clear that a few alterations (mainly simplifications of the complicated decorative patterns) occurred at that time.

    We have gathered a library of images which we’d love to post online, Unfortunately, worries about copyright issues mean that we’re wary of putting them all up and so we’re compiling a list of links to other websites and databases. Where we have images for which we have express permission to use digitally or do not have copyright implications (images from the Illustrated London News etc), these will be on display in Second Life. We should get a move on uploading onto the website so that everybody can access them, I think. That way it’d be a lot easier for us all to share our resources. I’ll get onto this.

    It would be absolutely fantastic to see the images you have.

  3. viapsesmaniep Says:

    Nice website I will come back again soon.

  4. M Linden Says:

    Inspiring story! For existing users, they can easily just click on this slurl and go directly to your location:

  5. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks very much for your comment and thank you for dropping by the launch yesterday!

  6. Capability Frog Says:

    Fascinating Exhibit. was surprised to see how little the Roman’s seemed to value privacy, i understand from the exhibit that curtains could be hung to divide space up, but even so, it’s very like a panopticon in there. Thanks for building this, I really enjoyed it.

  7. Shelley Hales Says:

    Hi Capability,

    Good observation, thanks for the comment – the Pompeian house doesn’t exactly look set up for a secluded private life does it? It does seem to be the case that Pompeian homeowners wanted people to see their wealth. They used their houses as important tools in their political, social and business lives so they didn’t regard the home as the private family retreat that we see it as today. They’re designed so you can see right through them from the entrance. On the other hand, they probably could have seclusion – created by curtains, moveable screens (there’s an excellent wooden screen partition preserved at Herculaneum) and slaves of course. And we know very little about the use of upper floors – which, where they existed, were mostly destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

    I think the Crystal Palace Company has slightly exaggerated the lack of privacy too with the shallowness of the rooms in the back part of the house and the very rigid symmetry. Interesting given that much of our concept of domesticity comes from the mid-Victorian period.

  8. Kelli Shepherd Says:

    Super writing. You have gained a new fan. Please maintain the fabulous posts and I look forward to more of your newsworthy updates.

  9. Richard Elen Says:

    There’s a small set of photographs (among a larger collection by Philip Delamotte) of the Pompeian Court in the English Heritage “ViewFinder system:

  10. Jillian Price Says:

    hi, i found

  11. Shelley Hales Says:

    Yes, there is – the Delamotte photographs are an amazing source recording the Palace being built and immediately after opening. Thanks for putting this link on our site because I’ve been meaning to post a comprehensive list of available image sources.

  12. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks so much for your comment Kelli – we really appreciate the feedback we get in these messages. Sorry it’s taken a few days to reply to you – we’ve been swanning around in a celeb-like fashion since our Second Life TV appearance on Tuesday. I haven’t dared watch it back yet but the link to the video is at the top of the page and I think Nic will be embedding it on this site in the next few days. I’m off to write a post on it now!

  13. Morganne Darkstone Says:

    Always have had a certain fascination with ancient cultures. Very nice build you have here. About a year ago I tried to get a house built for myself in SL along this basic line, but I couldn’t quite find the right photos to show my designer and what I ended up with was NOT this LOL. You’ve done well. Enjoyed my visit.

  14. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks Morganne,

    We were very lucky to have a lot of images and plans to work from and that made it a lost easier. But it was very hard work – and we did have to alter things a lot as we went along because some of the images (particularly engravings) were quite ambiguous. I agree with you – I think Nic’s done a fantastic job on pulling it all together.

  15. Noah Mondor Says:

    Fine work, hope to hear more from you.Are you working in a Group that you can make such a fine Blog?

  16. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks for your message Noah. There’s two of us on the project – Nic’s in charge of the modelling and I’m in charge of the blog – which is why it keeps getting a little behind. Thanks for the prompt to get on with the post I meant to do last week!


  17. Elrik Merlin Says:

    You mentioned your Second Life TV appearance so I thought I would post a link to our Designing Worlds show on your work. It’s one of our favourites and is full of information. We were lucky to have such articulate guests.

  18. Siva Wimax Says:

    Excellent blog. Continue doing.|I added this link. Appreciate the good work!

  19. Cherri Scammahorn Says:

    Man, I do love this awesome story. I’m glad I’ve found you site on Google and I hope I’ll find more great stuff here.

  20. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks Elrik,

    We have posted the link elsewhere but it’s good to have it on the home page – particularly because I am loving being a media queen! I’d urge anybody interested in getting more of a feel for the variety of environments in SL to browse through previous episodes of Designing Worlds to see the other sites Elrik and Saffia have showcased.

  21. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks Siva – I’m sorry the gap between blog entries are a little erratic but I’m glad they are useful.

  22. Shelley Hales Says:

    Thanks Cherri. I hope you have a chance to look round the model in SL.

  23. 3d model yolasite Says:

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  24. Josef Balbozar Says:

    Fantastic model……it would be interesting to see the house in vivid color and with a lived-in appearance as if re-created prior to the eruption….many thanx….;-)

  25. Shelley Hales Says:

    Hi Josef,

    Thanks for your message – it’s always good to hear people like the model. We really appreciate the feedabck. We’re still thinking of the best way to colour it in. We have two main problems: the first is technical/practical – thinking about the best way of introducing colour – and the second is that all of our sources, with the exception of two photographs, are black and white. The guidebook mentions the main colours of the walls and we can check back to the museum in Naples too for some of the myth panels but a lot of the time we’d be in the dark. We haven’t given up on it though!

    As for the lived-in appearance, we are currently considering duplicating the model so people could experience the house in different states: as a lived-in Pompeian house, as a pristine Victorian exhibit or as a ruin post-volcano/fire. I’ll post on the blog as we get any developments on that front.


  26. Scott Grant Says:

    Hi Shelley and Nic,

    Loved the house and the surrounding environment, as well as the other lesson materials. We actually were in Pompeii about a month ago, so it was lovely to be able to visit the house and see what a wealthy Pompeian’s house might have looked like.

    I noticed your comments about the issues of color and textures above. It really does sound quite complex. I guess that is one of the problems of re-creating an actual historical site. Still the process of researching it must have been fascinating.

    I love your HUD, it’s functionality and the audio commentaries along the way. They were very informative without being overpowering. Nice balance and a very convenient way conveying information. In fact, having text-based, audio and visual sources of information is great as it caters for different types of learners.

    I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t meet any ‘ghosts’. The use of NPCs (non-player characters) to increase the level of interactivity in a virtual environment, to create an even greater sense of immersion, and to act as a pedagogical tool is something that is a bit of a passion of mine. I teach Chinese language and culture at Monash in Australia and we have been using ‘bots’ (automated NPCs) as part of our synchronous lessons on our island (Monash University 2, Chinese Island). This is party why I was very curious to meet your ‘ghosts’.

    One little suggestion I might make is to fill your exhibition, and indeed your sim, with sound. I am not suggesting that you need to re-create specific sounds of the era, but simple things like the sound of fauna or flowing water, etc., really makes a difference in terms of the sense of immersion, and is relatively easy to do.

    Anyhow, fantastic job! I look forward to coming back and meeting the ‘ghosts’ in the near future.



  27. Shelley Hales Says:

    Dear Scott,

    Thanks so much for your message. I do apologise for our bots’ tendency not to show up for work now and again! Nic checks them regularly to see if they need a reboot but they do wander off occasionally before he spots it. Very interested indeed to hear about your project – we’re hoping to visit later today.

    We have just secured further funding to develop the learning activities. In particular, we’re working on extending the number of characters and making them more interactive, flexible… and reliable.

    As with the colour, sound is a big absence in the model at the moment (beyond the splash in the water etc). We have lots of ideas about the sounds we want in there. The most significant part of the forthcoming phase of our project is to migrate to Open Sim – we’re hoping to be able to experiment further with sound etc in our new environment.


  28. Scott Grant Says:

    Hi Shelley,

    I am curious, why the move to OpenSim?



  29. Shelley Hales Says:

    Scott – so so sorry – your message languisehd here – I don’t get alerts when comments are left and haven’t been checking this part of the site. Well, price for one (very dismayed at the the forthcoming loss of the educational discount in SL). But also because we’re hoping for more control over our environment, especially in terms of providing security for school users. Nic can explain better but we’re hoping with our space in OS that we’ll be able to duplicate the model, switch versions for different scenarios etc. It’s a big experiment – but worth a try. We’ll still be in SL for a while – particularly in case we have to come back with our tails between our legs!

  30. Scott Grant Says:

    Hi Shelley,

    Np. I know what it’s like trying to keep up with everything.

    We will probably also be looking at Open Sim over the next 6 months to familiarise ourselves with the possibilities that it presents and hopefully then be in a good position if the need arises to move across. For the moment we are staying in SL as (touch wood) apart from the rise in the cost of having space in SL, everything else seems to work quite ok for us for the moment.

    Best of luck with your ‘new’ adventure in Open Sim. I look forward to visiting (if it’s allowed) the new set up when it’s ready.



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