Life Online, the world's first permanent gallery dedicated to exploring the social, technological and cultural impact of the Internet and the web, was opened last night by Vint Cerf, one of the ‘fathers of the Internet’ at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
The ground-breaking gallery brings together historically significant content, multimedia displays and a programme of special exhibitions exploring how the Internet and the web are changing society. Life Online features a timeline of computing technology used to access the Internet and the web from 1970 to the present day, and looks at the future with Technology Heirlooms – experimental objects designed by Microsoft to save our personal digital memories so they can be passed onto our families.
Contributors to the gallery include Vint Cerf; Sir Richard Branson, whose company, Virgin Media, is one of Life Online’s corporate supporters; Ray Tomlinson, the man who sent the first email; and a host of technology and Internet experts.
Tom Woolley, curator of new media at the National Media Museum and lead curator of Life Online, explained: “Although other galleries tell the story of the Internet, no other gallery in the world is dedicated to exploring how the Internet’s ever-evolving history links to the impact it has on our lives, and we are very excited to house the world’s first gallery of its kind here in Bradford.”
Starting with the experimental Arpanet computer network in 1969, Life Online charts the incredible rise of the Internet through personal computing, the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989, email and social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Sir Richard Branson has been filmed answering a series of questions about the role the Internet has played in his life as part of the gallery’s Your Life Online project. His answers can be viewed in the gallery itself as well as online at: http://nmemlol.wordpress.com
Visitors to Life Online can also contribute their thoughts about the impact of the Internet on their lives in a special area in the gallery as well as online. Their submissions may feature alongside those of Sir Richard Branson in the gallery itself and also on the Your Life Online website, where there are a series of missions that visitors can respond to by sending text, images, links, videos, games or songs.
Within the gallery is a temporary exhibition space. The inaugural exhibition, ‘[open source] Is the Internet you know under threat?’, looks at the Internet’s open source culture of sharing and collaboration. Digital artworks examine current issues through specially commissioned installations by established international artists, Thomson and Craighead, Ross Phillips, emerging artists Erin Newell and Phil Bird and Networked, a local collective of young artists.
The National Media Museum is also inviting people to share their online lives through a project called ‘the Mirror’. By allowing the Museum to access some basic information from visitors’ Facebook profiles, or by answering five simple questions, it can create a personal online reflection for each person.
Life Online is funded by the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. The project also has a number of corporate supporters such as Virgin Media and digital marketing agency, Brass. The environment, brand and interaction agency Start JudgeGill assisted with the creation of the exhibition space.
Vint Cerf officially declared the gallery open via a giant screen at a special event on Thursday, 29 March 2012.
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