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Bradford museum logging on to life online
This spring, Bradford will be home to the world’s first gallery exploring how the internet changed our lives.
Called Life Online, it will tell the story of the technological, social and cultural impact of the internet.
The £2 million project – bringing together historically-significant content, multi-media displays and exhibitions exploring contemporary trends and issues relating to how the internet is changing society – is hailed as the first to link the story of the internet with its impact on how we live our lives.
Some of the world’s leading figures in internet technology, including representatives from Google and Microsoft, have played a major role in devising the gallery and its content.
Set to open at the National Media Museum on March 30, it will explore the origins of the internet, global communications, issues of online identity and the nature of digital communities and businesses.
Work is now under way on Life Online, which will occupy two spaces in the museum. The permanent gallery on the ground floor will reflect the story of the internet, from the very first e-mail to the rise of home computing and the non-stop evolution of social and technological communication. It will also explore the future of the internet.
Up on the seventh floor the exhibition space will, through temporary displays, showcase the ever-changing relationship between society and the internet. The first Life Online exhibition, called Open Source, will focus on the online culture of sharing and collaboration, while examining current threats to net neutrality which could signify the end of online culture as we know it.
This inaugural exhibition will include commissions by internationally-renowned new media artists alongside an artwork created by a group of teenagers who have formed an arts collective, based at the museum.
The big draw of galleries at the National Media Museum, from Experience TV to the Games Lounge, has been largely down to interactive elements, enabling visitors to try everything from editing a soap opera to reading the news.
Taking a virtual slant on interaction, the idea at Life Online is for both physical and online visitors to ‘power’ the gallery and exhibitions with their ideas, thoughts and opinions – creating a model of engagement which will ultimately build a public archive of society’s relationship with the internet in the 21st century.
One of the features of Life Online will be the biggest ever ‘Twitter mosaic’, featuring profile pictures of thousands of @MuseumMosaic followers. The mosaic will be the background wallpaper for an entire wall, with other elements such as an interactive terminal, video screen, text panels and images also included An additional purpose-built learning space will house a programme of workshops and events investigating the processes of producing online content and the issues surrounding our relationships with the online world.
Tom Woolley, curator of new media at the National Media Museum, said: “Although other galleries tell the story of the internet, no other links that ever-evolving history with the impact the internet has on our lives.
“We have been planning this gallery for a long time, and it’s fantastic to see the building work commence. We are very excited to house the world’s first gallery of its kind here in Bradford.
“There are many exciting milestones ahead as we build towards the gallery opening in March.”
The museum has consulted with a range of web experts and pioneers on the content of the gallery, including Ben Hammersley, the Prime Minister’s Ambassador to TechCity and editor-at-large of Wired Magazine; representatives from Google and Microsoft; Freeserve co-founders Rob Wilmot and Ajaz Ahmed; and Helen Milner, the managing director of UK Online Centres. A senior member of the Virgin Media broadband team is the most recent addition to the gallery advisory panel.
The University of Bradford has also advised, along with the universities of Oxford, Nottingham Trent, Southampton, Brunel, Manchester Metropolitan and Lancaster.
Life Online is funded by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. Corporate supporters include Virgin Media, creative and digital marketing agency Brass, and environment, brand and interaction agency Start JudgeGill who are assisting with the creation of the Life Online exhibition space.