Games – and possibly a little fun

My desk at work, English Heritage, Savile Row, April 1989. Photo: Janet E Davis

The box behind the lamp was my 1st work PC, at English Heritage in Savile Row, London, April 1989. Photo: Janet E Davis.

Today is a day when the paid work that I’m doing is something I cannot tell you much about yet. I can tell you that it involves a museum, and creating and trying out a game using very current digital technology.  It will be available to the public soon – if I can work out how get things to display as I want.

I have been using computers for different purposes in cultural heritage since 1986. A computer is a very useful tool in archaeology, possibly more essential than the more familiar trowel and spade in the 21st century. The computer in the photograph on the right was my first work computer. It was 3 years old when I took the photograph, and I used it for 3 years after that. I used it to create spreadsheets to help monitor progress on capital projects relating to the North of England sites in care. I also used it to keep track of information about the sites, write submissions for funding, and to develop long-term management planning tools. All the digital files were in that box under the monitor or on floppy disks.

Today, I have been working mostly in the Cloud (networked digital resources available through the Internet). Part of my work today included communicating digitally with someone in a museum hundreds of miles away who took a photograph and sent it to me within the same morning.

I searched the Web to obtain more information about the creator of the museum object in the photograph than had been available on the museum’s database. I was lucky. There was a connection with Scottish architecture, and there is a superb online resource about historical Scottish architects, landscape architects and similar professionals. Having found the additional information I wanted, I re-sized the image to reduce the file size, and uploaded the photograph through a website, adding caption and description.

Such tasks are part of the everyday work that create the wonderful online heritage resources.

It is not the most obviously exciting, Indiana Jones adventuring sort of work. It is, however, really cool. We are developing new ways of enabling more people to learn about and interact with their heritage. Best of all, today is one of the days when I have been working on subversive heritage learning. I want people to play games, have some fun, and not notice that they are learning about their heritage.

Archaeology Travel Adds England Today

Having given up the academic archaeology rat race I have recently joined up with a couple of exciting travel website developers, Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen. These are the people that created SlowTrav, which they recently sold, and SlowEurope; both highly successful travel websites. We have combined our respective talents and created Archaeology Travel, an extensive and interactive travel guide to archaeological sites and museums. On 30 June 2011 we launched France, and today to support the Day of Archaeology initiative we are preparing to go live with the ‘England’ section of our website. Soon, we will be adding Italy, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Archaeology Travel: travel guide to archaeological sites and museums in France

A little bit about Archaeology Travel. From the country-level page (as in France shown above) visitors can choose a region on an interactive map, or choose a region from the list in the navigation bar to the left. Clicking through takes you to our recommended list of sites and museums, organised by archaeological period (below is the page for Paris and Ile de France). Each entry on the list has a brief description and a photograph. Clicking through takes you to a dedicated site page, where you will find more archaeological information about the site, the necessary details you require should you want to visit the site, links to further photos, as well as a link to an official website.We have added, and are still adding so much more to ensure that Archaeology Travel is not just a set of regional lists of archaeological sites and museums open to the public. Besides a number of pages presenting resources and background information about archaeology (and more to follow), a blog with news, reviews and travel reports, the website also provides in its ‘Archaeological Tours’  feature a grouping of sites by specific themes. So for anyone who wishes to travel Europe by visiting, for example, the amphitheatres of the Roman Empire or the Megalithic monuments, Archaeology Travel directs you to the sites you will want to see.

For our Day of Archaeology, we will be making the necessary changes to the website to include England: Pauline and Steve will be attending to the technical aspects of this change for the website, while I shall be adding as many sites as possible. We will not have all the archaeological sites and museums listed today, that will be an ongoing process; but we want to get the England section live today to how the diversity of archaeological work. I shall report back on our progress at the end of the day.