1. to make accessible to the public knowledge of theCrystalPalaceand its collections.

 We have done this through hosting the Model on an essentially democratic (if demographically biased) platform (SL) and on the Website, to which we have applied access standards. Ongoing dissemination will continue to raise the profile of the Collection. Migration from SL, whether to an open source virtual world such as Open Sim or to CD, via a platform like Unity, will ensure that what is accessible in principle becomes more accessible in practice. 

2. to increase awareness of and stimulate research into the Crystal Palace and to broaden our understanding of the place and perception of Classics in the nineteenth century beyond the universities and museums by reconstructing the collection and display techniques of a private speculative enterprise that shaped and reflected mid century ideas of classical taste.

 As well as stimulating our own research, we have presented research papers at several events where we have been able to add to discussions with classical reception specialists and researchers into theCrystalPalace. We continue to give papers beyond the end of the project and are involved in a variety of forthcoming events and publications on both theCrystalPalaceitself and the reception of Pompeian houses in the nineteenth century. We have also built links with other research clusters and interest groups in the research, SL and local communities. A further outcome is that researching and building the Court has led to us to understand more thoroughly how the Victorians built the Court and the decisions they made in arranging and interpreting their collection of paintings. Our findings have informed the metadata and will be the subject of formal research papers in the future.

3. through dissemination and evaluation of our project to stimulate new approaches to teaching & learning, to encourage dialogue between academic institutions and the wider community and to encourage the increasing use of digital technology within the Arts and Humanities to reach its full, interactive potential.

 The evaluation activities we have undertaken have helped us to articulate the successes of our project and have given us material to develop and to disseminate. Our strategy of targeting different audiences with different dissemination events has allowed us to cascade our findings and encouraged us to work in and draw on a variety of disciplinary areas. It is too early to measure the impact of our work but the fact that a number of our school and university teachers want to pursue the use of the Model, is a good indicator that the project has inspired people to experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning about the past.


1. to develop and digitise at the University of Bristol a Collection of material of the Pompeii Court of the Crystal Palace in order to increase access to up until now scattered and vulnerable but rich resources for use in teaching, learning and research.

 We successfully completed this objective, bringing together the digitised Collection from visual and textual data in national archives, local libraries and private collections. We are not aware, for example, that the Talbot photographs have ever been published before.

 2. to make that Collection useful and engaging to a range of different user groups across UK education sectors, research communities and heritage industry through an interactive, online Virtual Model, presented in the popular virtual platform Second Life, and a Website.

The evaluation we carried out has helped us achieve this objective. We have modified our plans and prioritised areas for which the user groups showed most enthusiasm and have tried to address any concerns or doubts by planning successors to the SL Model. The majority of groups enjoyed the online location of the Collection and the school groups in particular enjoyed the social interaction with other visitors whilst all groups valued the interaction with the material itself. As suggested in response to aim 3, the fact that we are experiencing longer term interest in the Model suggests that it was felt to be genuinely engaging.

 This response has given us a better understanding of the potential value of digitising collections in an imaginative and interactive manner using VR technology.

 3. through developing a number of innovative, interface techniques within Second Life to help different user groups engage with the material in the Model

 As a result of initial evaluation data, we privileged the development of the virtual world HUD and the robot avatars as our main interface techniques. The HUD, a standard tool in virtual worlds, is valuable for its flexibility: offering different kinds of information to different audiences. It also grants the visitor the power to decide what audience he/she wants to be and to move across different information levels. The ‘bots, the most innovative aspect of our project, work both as characters to interact with school students but also, more subtly, the tourist ‘bots offer clues to all visitors as to how to use the Model.

Research and consultation with our user groups have convinced us that our project’s use of engagement techniques based on social interaction has the potential to lead the way not only within Classics but also the learning technology and heritage sector. We have learned that the really crucial aspect of our project in this regard is exploiting the social aspects of avatars and ‘bots (automated avatars) as a means of delivering information and guiding visitors round exhibition space.

When we started the project, we thought we were interested primarily in reconstruction and mapping differences between Victorian and modern techniques, but actually our interest has come to be much more about ways of inhabiting the past. This realisation has helped us refocus our ideas for new projects we hope to launch through the Model. The ‘bots have assumed a new importance and we would like to build on work into the possible uses of these. Within the scope of this project, we have only made very limited use of them but we will definitely be exploring them further. We are particularly interested in how the ‘ghostly’ or ‘uncanny’ experience of inhabiting virtual space and interacting through avatars intersects with historical experiences of inhabiting the past.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: