Living Archives – An SL, Drupalish, historical research/Archives type project

Well… it’s been a while. Seemed to find my fingers freezing on the keyboard as I come anywhere near the blog over the last few weeks. I’ve had lots to say, have been keeping snippets of it in different places but haven’t really gotten around to getting it on paper. Today, however, I’m not going to talk about any of that… but introduce you fine folks to a little dream I had that a couple dozen people helped make a reality. Many of the finer details aren’t really flushed out at this point, so I’ll give yas all a quick description of what we’re going to try and do, and as things develop, I’ll correct the stuff here that’s moved in a different direction. There are various reasons for the vagueness that follows… and I fully expect to write another post to thank the countless people (funders, collaborators, critics and partners) who’ve allowed us to get this underway… but that’ll have to wait until next time.

The Living Archives project.

Between now and the 31st of march 2008 we’re going to be taking some (probably 7th graders) students to the local heritage sites (museums and archives) getting them to digitize some ‘old stuff’ contextualized by some period literature and records, put that stuff into a digital archive, write some interesting things about those digital artifacts to be published in a new interactive e-book we’ll be building out of drupal, and then go into Second Life and build a replica of 19th century Prince Edward Island.

Simple right. All we have to do is meld in with the existing curriculum in three different school districts (two English and one French) build an entire educational program (for the tech literacies) which we will then print to DVD and give out to schools on the Island, adapt out existing digital library work to work with kids, take the existing drupaled distribution of drupal and convince it to do what we want it to do, and build a historical Island in SL that will house the digitized artifacts in period houses… giving people a chance to ‘experience’ life at the start of the 20th century here on the red dirt island on the east coast of Canada.

Why exactly did I want to do this?

Like so many things it started with a simple conversation and then spiraled horribly out of control. Wonderfully, crazily out of control. I’ve been wanting a ‘holistic’ project for a long time now. A project where we tried to take a given bit of learning or knowledge or something and followed it through a whole cycle. In this case, lets say we follow a photo of Gertrude peeling a potato. Give me lots of latitude here… the project is still morphing… this should only be meant to give you a basic idea

1. student wants to talk about potatoes (potatoes are very important on PEI see second paragraph…)
2. goes to archive, finds picture of Gertrude peeling potato
3. scans said photo
4. finds newspaper from 1905 with price of potatoes
5. goes to museum, finds potato cool knife, puts it in 3D scanner (yes… we bought one)
6. writes story about working in potato field in summer, compares lifestyles to previous times
7. story goes into online eportfolio, to be commented on by other students and ‘leaders’
8. story, photo, knife, newspaper go into e-book (still don’t like this word… need something else) and get tagged and linked to other things that are similar
9. all digitized stuff also goes automatically into digital archive with nice metadata stripped from context and file
10. photo shows up on shelf over fireplace in SL (story shows up when photo is clicked) knife ends up on table and newspaper article (found on table) links to the photo

bit of a rambling example. but this is (kinda) where we’re hoping to get. We still have many different ideas going around and are slowly building our team… but the project is confirmed and we’re going to take our best shot at it. We have a gigantic meeting on the 24th of July, after which I’ll feel alot more comfortable speaking in more specifics.

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