Before moving to Australia, I worked in the Bloomsbury area of London for many years. Despite having such historical riches on my doorstep, I was an infrequent and irregular visitor to the British Museum and its wonderful collections.
On the few occasions I did visit, I would marvel at such wonders as the Parthenon marbles, Egyptian artefacts and the Anglo-Saxon treasures from Sutton Hoo. To be honest though I took the proximity of the British Museum for granted.
Now of course the museum is on the other side of the world and I wish I’d spent more time there. However the web and the BBC specifically have come to my rescue. Last year on BBC Radio 4, a landmark set of programmes was released as a set of podcasts called “A History of the World 100 Objects”.
The narrator Neil McGregor (The Director of the British Museum) brings 100 objects from the breadth of human history to life, describing their physical beauty and giving context both in historical terms and in relation to us now as global citizens.
Accompanying the programmes is a website that allows the user to journey through three million years of human history – from stone age tools to the credit card. The ability to zoom in and rotate the artefacts provides a surprising level of intimacy. The objects are photographed in high definition so that their age and priceless qualities can be fully appreciated.
This form of digital story telling is both rich and revealing and establishes McGregor to be a master storyteller.
As I listen to these programmes I cast my mind back to my rare visits to the British Museum. I would amble around the museum taking a look at the artefacts in their cabinets but would appreciate them with limited context. A digital approach has educated me in a way that was previously unavailable and perhaps illustrates what transformative tools for learning such technologies can be.
Next year I am going to visit London on holiday – top of the list is a visit to the British Museum. I am going to track down as many of the artefacts described in the podcasts as possible and I think will view them with new eyes.
Neil Martin – Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)