I promise, this is the last time I bang on about @HeritageJam – until next year

The only thing I haven’t covered, since last month’s Heritage Jam event, is the on-line entries, which were more numerous. You can read about them all here (scroll down), but I want to use this last (I promise) Heritage Jam 2015 post to pick out just a few of my favorites.

First up is my award for Most Fun, which goes to Howard WilliamsHeritage Jam: Conserving the Past, an investigation of the actual jams available for sale at heritage sites on his family holiday in Wales. But its not all fruit-spread based humour, he also manages to fit in this specialist subject: the heritage of death, and even the death of heritage.

Howard also contributes to the winning team entry for the on-line competition. This is a shoe-in on my own favorites list because of it’s medium. The Volund Stories: Weyland the Smith is a comic, created by Hannah Kate Sackett. I love comics, and it inspires me to pick up my pencil again and practice drawing. (My problem is that I use a tablet for everything nowadays, and my fingers have forgotten how to control things like pens and pencils.) Only the first few pages were submitted for Heritage Jam, and I eagerly await the completed work, which will be published (free) on both Kate and Howard’s blogs.

The individual winner was also another of my favorites, Cryptoporticus by Anthony Masinton. This is a “first-person walking simulator” (in the style of one of my favorite games Dear Esther) around a mysterious imaginary museum.  To tell the truth, when I saw this (and another which I’ll mention later) appear in the Heritage Jam gallery in the last few hours of wrestling with my own entry, I almost gave up. This looked so brilliant, I thought mine and Cat’s work could not possibly compete.

I only managed to get a few minutes with the actual game during the event itself, but I liked it very much. Sadly the link to download the game on the Heritage Jam page no-longer works. I hope this is only because Anthony is dealing with a couple of bugs he couldn’t manage to fix before the deadline, and the links will eventually work again, because I for one want to have a go playing it right through.

The other entry which almost made me give up my own efforts was the excellent website Epi.Curio, by the appropriately named Katherine Cook. This encourages visitors to interact with the past, and with museum collections, in the multi-sensory sphere of cooking and eating. It’s just such a brilliant idea, presented in a beautiful responsive website. I am overwhelmed and insanely jealous of Katherine’s imagination. (And yes, before you ask, there is a recipe for an actual Heritage Jam.) I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but I’m thinking about making Pan de Muertos for the end of the month.

Spooky Pan de Muertos from the Epi.Curio website

So that’s a quick whizz through my personal favorites, though there’s plenty more quality stuff in the gallery though, check out Shawn Graham’s Listening to Watling Street, for example. Indeed, there was so much high quality work on show, that wen I submitted mine and Cat’s piece, I was feeling quite subdued, depressed even, despite the amazing etheral quality of Cat’s auralisation. I felt we had worked really hard, but hadn’t come close to some of the showstoppers that were already entered.

So imagine my surprise, and absolute joy, when on my way home from the event, I saw the tweet from Heritage Jam that our piece had been Highly Commended in the judging of the on-line entries. Despite being on the winning team at the in-person event, I was even more excited by this “second place” than that victory. The judges comments were so kind, so I’ll finish with them (and the electronic versions of our certificates).

The breath-taking audio reconstructions included within this complex project captured our judges imaginations and hearts whilst the intricate layering of narrative and interpretive contexts left them wanting more. They were hugely complimentary of the way in which the duo had structured the piece to meaningfully showcase and integrate narrative, reconstruction and data into the piece. The interactive nature of the project promoted significant discussion on the topic of agency, control and interpretation in museums and collections, making it not only a thought provoking piece in its own right, but also in relation to wider heritage themes and issues. The technicality, scale and artful nature of the project, as well as the thoughtful, comprehensive paradata far exceeded the expectations of our judges for a short-term “jam” project, leading them to crown “Among the Ruins” as the highly commended team entry for the 2015 Heritage Jam

HighlyCommended - Online Team

Winner - In-Person Team


Bartle – and the power of You Tube.

For the last few days, my blog has been really popular.


I’ve been getting hundreds of hits on a post I wrote a couple of years back. Now, I don’t expect hundreds of hits. I’m lucky if I get a couple of thousand a month. so my first thought was that it was some sort of new spam bot, testing WordPress’ defenses. But I didn’t have any new spam comments to trash, so I checked out where these hits were coming from. – mostly search engines. But there was something interesting about the search terms. Nowadays, more and more people opt to keep their search terms private, but the vast majority of the known search terms were “Bartle Taxonomy.”

My post on Bartle has always attracted a steady stream of hits, but most of them come from searches for “the Bartle test” (which is what my post is called). This time, whilst there were still some people searching for “the Bartle test”, most were using the “taxonomy” word. Something, somewhere had caused a spike of interest in “the Bartle Taxonomy” but what?

I googled it. There was the wikipedia page on Bartle at the top of the list, a bunch of other preferences, and my own post about 6th from the top. (Not bad – but Goggle knows who I am, so I wouldn’t put it past their logarithm to place my own posts higher when I’m searching. So I tried a couple of other engines too, who wouldn’t now me, DuckDuckGo and Quant, and I’m still up there, sixth or seventh. With is cool.)i

But I couldn’t see anything in particular that had prompted the spike in my visitor numbers. Until today, when this YouTube video was brought to my attention:

Its a good video, with a simple history and explanation of Bartle’s four type taxonomy. Interestingly, it doesn’t cover his revised eight type version – but who does? Where it excels though, is looking through the gamer types to the world/player and acting/interacting axes. They are going to “delve even deeper into Bartle’s world next week.” Looks like I’m going to have to subscribe. 🙂

Which brings me to my final point. This video was uploaded on the 14th of October, co-relating exactly with my visitor spike. That the publication of such a video can have such an impact on my little back-water of the web, suggests to me that search engines like Google are losing their power to navigate (or uncover?) knowledge. Instead subscribed publishers like YouTubers are introducing a new generation of web-users to all sorts of concepts, effectively becoming “curators”. Digital music companies are all about curation  – but there’s a an opportunity for the traditional publishers, of all sorts of media, to leverage their own skillbase as curators, if they are not already too late.

Hadrian’s Wall with Bricks to the Past


A couple of weeks ago we went to the Great Western Brick Show (which used to be the Great Western Lego Show, until one party or the other decided not to license the Lego trademark). This takes place annually at Steam, the railway museum in Swindon, and is just one of a growing number of large events run by AFOLs (Adult Fans Of Lego). It’s full of impressive models, but this year’s triumph was a huge diorama of a section of Hadian’s Wall.

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It was built by Bricks to the Past, a collective of Lego-builders with a particular interest in history. Their inspiration comes from University of Newcastle’s FutureLearn course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. I’ll have to try to persuade them to enroll on Southampton’s Portus course next time it runs, though they are probably looking for a non-Roman project next year.


The massive model depicted aspects of life on both sides of the wall, with a Pictish village and Iron Age barrow by Simon Pickard,  on the “uncivilized” side, and a Roman Villa by Steve Snasdell on the other.


I had a brief chat with the builders at the show and they talked about some of the compromises they made with scale, particularly on James Pegrum’s fort, so they they could fit interesting features (for example Roman latrines) into the diorama.


They also included features for future minifigure archaeologists to find, around the perimeter, people could peek underground into charnal pits and burial sites.


They had no idea how many bricks they’d used in the model, but it looked like hundreds of thousands. Having struggled with the roof on my Portus Magazzini model I was particularly interested in their imaginative use of cylinder and hinge bricks (among others) to create a variety of roof styles.


Apart from the diorama, the group also made other Roman archeology inspired models, such as a centurion, a Romulus and Remus plaque and a fragment of tiled flooring.

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All in all, it was an inspiring piece of Lego visualization.



@HeritageJam – the other live projects

I promised to write about the other projects that were created in the twenty eight hours (including sleeping) that we created Happy Gods. Of course we weren’t working solidly on Happy Gods for all that time. Though the Heritage Jam team kept us supplied with water, sugary snacks, and lunch, we all had to take a break or two to eat some proper food and to sleep, and I even took time out to contribute a little to one of the other projects.

That was  Jo Pugh‘s coded bookshelf. We had our briefing from Natalie in the Yorkshire Museum’s reading room (it features in the short film of her above), surrounded by old books caged in secure bookshelves. More than one person initially thought that doing something with those would be but, but it was Jo who did something. We weren’t allowed at the books themselves, so he took a number of photos of ranges of books on the shelves, and then sourced their contents from the museum’s own limited digitization project and other sources. (He wasn’t very complimentary about Google’s own efforts in this regard, but did even find some workable versions of the contents there.) He then set about presenting some of those contents on visitor’s phones, through QR codes that pointed to a choice of text or recorded excepts, and for those who hate the faff of QR (like me), short web addresses to type in. I helped by reading a couple of those excepts for him.

Jo was the only in-person Jammer not to work in a team, which is fine of course, but I really enjoyed being thrown in with a bunch of talented people and having to get creative with them. And next year, I told Jo (somewhat arrogantly on reflection), he should do the same. It was fun working with him for the short time I did, and I’d definitely be in a team with him.

Luke Botham and Mathew Fisher used a technology I’d seen before – manipulating virtual 3D objects by pointing a web-cam at a black and white icon. But they drew their 3D objects from the ADS Armana Archive, and they also had an idea I hadn’t seen before – to make the icons wearble, so that visitors might virtually wear some of the finds!

And so to Stephen Elliot, Laura Valeria, and others used a piece of software that Stephen’s company is developing. This is essentially a content management system that creates mobile applications using GPS outdoors and BLE beacons indoors to provide location-based interpretation. The team wove what looked to be a set of intriguing stories connecting the museum collection with outdoors locations.

All were excellent projects, and the teams (and Jo) had worked really hard to pull it them all together in the limited time. Everyone deserved to win, and in fact the competition was so close that the judges couldn’t choose between the three other projects, and they ended up sharing the Highly Commended spot.

So how come we won? Well, I think it was a close run thing, and I’ve been waiting to see if the judges comments explain more on the Heritage Jam website. None of the in-person entries have been put up on the site at the time of writing, but a blog post does explain a little of the judge’s thinking:

The judges were blown away by the scope and quality of the work and commended the team for the innovative way they had blended game mechanics across a stunning art-style to create a new and exciting way to engage with the collections.