Principles and Benefits

In most expositions of the past, whether at sites, in museums or in published forms, sites and artefacts are separated. This sharp divide between physical remains and their associated finds is always unfortunate, and sometimes unnecessary. However, multimedia enables one to display artefacts in a better context by placing them against the sites where they were found. This can be done much more effectively in multimedia than in printed works. In a demonstration of the Merchant's Tale within the Celtic and Romano-British galleries at The British Museum, it was fascinating to see how users were at first disbelieving that the actual objects on the screen were in neighbouring showcases, and then how they slowly began to realise that these objects have lives which started over a thousand miles from Britain.

Furthermore, artefacts and sites can be linked to historical texts. This is very much the case with The Emperor Hadrian and the Saint Melania journeys. Too often, even at undergraduate level, students are not necessarily able to draw upon a wide range of sources. Multimedia enables different sources to be highlighted and synthesised in an easily intelligible manner, thus helping pupils to achieve attainment goals on sources in Key Stage 3 History on the National Curriculum.

The four journeys were chosen to give as full a chronological and geographical coverage of the Roman Empire as possible. Equivalent books tend to be encyclopaedic and dry to read. This CD was always intended to engage the user and it is more likely that they will reach the 5th century AD section using Journeys than if they were reading a history of Rome that was several hundred pages long.

Engaging the user is crucial to the success of multimedia and in Journeys it was intended that the stories should be told by means of an 'interactive narrative' which give the user the chance to interrogate the past at their own leisure and pace. By empowering the user, it is more likely that they will complete the journeys and investigate support materials on more than one occasion. It follows that the user should become more interested in the reconstruction of the past as presented, but they will also be more likely to ask questions of the sites and artefacts displayed. As a result, I hope that users will be encouraged to visit museums and sites, and to consult other publications - it is only when this occurs that one can really say that the CD-Rom has succeeded as an educational tool. Ultimately, Journeys is intended to stimulate and inspire, not merely just to entertain and inform. I do not believe that a printed book could provide the same experience as this publication. In a class where there is passionate teaching and a wide range of resources, this disk might be redundant, but I am only too aware of the pressures on teachers, and this disk brings to bear the resources of The British Museum and numerous scholars in such a way that pupils can be exposed to the Roman World in an enjoyable and informative manner.

"interrogating at their own leisure and pace, the user is more likely to complete the journeys and investigate support materials"

Furthermore, Journeys enables a greater access to the Roman World for school children throughout Britain and abroad, reaching an audience that might not otherwise be able to visit the museums or many of the sites mentioned. In many ways this audience is the most important because until now they have been denied access to this form of scholarship and might even inspire them to make visits which they might have never seriously considered previously.

Finally, in researching for this multimedia project, as an archaeologist and ancient historian, I have been stretched across numerous fields of study. Apart from having to learn about aspects of the ancient world from books and colleagues, I have been forced to consider new questions about the past which probably have not been asked before or which have only been glossed over in academic works. This was most clearly the case when trying to reconstruct past activities like the trading across north-western Europe, the explanation for the arrival of Barates in Britain and the physical contextualisation of the Life of Melania. Also, by considering such a diverse collection of material, I made new connections between different sites, artefacts and aspects of the past - a direct result of the 3-dimensional nature of multimedia production.


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Last updated: Thu Aug 1 2002