Second Life for Museums and Archeological Modeling

  1. 1. Richard Urban

    Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  2. 2. Paul F. Marty

    College of Information - Florida State University

  3. 3. Michael Twidale

    Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Museums have been exploring the use of multi-user
virtual environments (MUVE) for more than a decade,
often in the form of proprietary virtual worlds built for select
audiences such as teachers and students. Since launching in
2003, the online virtual community of Second Life (<http:
//>) has attracted over one million
dedicated 'residents' who are laying the foundations for
widespread adoption of MUVE. In many ways, the growth of
MUVE mirrors the growth of the Web. New technologies
transition from small scale prototypes constructed by researchers
at great expense to large scale, rapidly growing mainstream
products and services available to the general public. These
products are not only used by many people, but are co-created
by them. With the Web this was a matter of using hypertext to
create websites, initially inspired by various genres of print
media, and soon evolving their own genres. In the case of
MUVE like Second Life (SL), residents can create 3D artifacts,
buildings, and social spaces where people interact. The social
nature of Second Life is a critical component of understanding
how it is, can, and should be used.
Already we can see a wide range of museum-like activities
occurring in Second Life. A recent survey identified over 150
museums, galleries or museum-like activity spaces in Second
Life. These museums offered visitors opportunities to view
collections of real-life and fictional spacecraft, digitized
versions of real-life artworks, exhibitions of artworks created
in Second Life, living history reenactments, or archaeological
monuments (Urban, Marty & Twidale, 2007). Reflecting the
patterns of development of the early World Wide Web, most
of these SL museum spaces have been created by enthusiasts
- residents who are not affiliated with real-life museums.
Game studies researchers have suggested that the behaviors of
players in other massively multi-player online games (MMOG)
such as World of Warcraft are blurring the boundaries between
work, play and learning (Castronova, 2006; Steinkuehler &
Williams, 2006; Yee, 2006). Like other passionate user
communities, Second Life residents are turning the virtual world
into a 'third place' where they can engage in serious leisure
pursuits. Museums and cultural heritage institutions are not
unfamiliar with serious leisure as they often engage with
amateur archaeologists, natural scientists, living-history
re-enactors or family historians. Unlike traditional museum
audiences, these individuals are "involved participants rather
than consumers" (Orr, 2006; Stebbins, 1992).
The degree to which individual residents decide to place
themselves on a continuum from pure work to pure play can
affect the results of their activities in Second Life. Some
residents seek to evoke a particular historic place, while others
engage in the serious work of conducting research, visiting the
real-life places and artifacts upon which their Second Life
representations are based. Some residents see Second Life as
primarily a social space that requires a lower degree of
authenticity and accuracy. As long as the stage can provide the
necessary background, it can facilitate social interactions
(DiBlas, 2005). Other residents are using Second Life as a new
expressive medium that allows them to create new artworks or
to accurately represent cultural artifacts as best they can.
As residents create museum-like activities, humanities scholars
are exploring Second Life as a virtual classroom. The New
Media Consortium (<>) has
constructed a virtual campus where classes are held in "outdoor"
amphitheaters, faculty and students are staging plays, poetry
readings and providing space for digital artists to create new
works. The Stanford Humanities Lab (<http://shl.sta>), the Humanities, Arts, Science and
Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC - <http:/
/>) have also staked some ground in
Second Life.
Observations of how Second Life residents are currently
engaging in serious leisure activities around museums and
archaeological models can inform many kinds of research. We
can study the early stages of a new online social medium being
co-created and evolving into a new form, just as the early days
of the web led to the development of new forms of creating,
sharing and manipulating information, including cultural
materials. We can also use the work of these technological
pioneers to inform ways to create new learning spaces for
students. Second Life also affords researchers and students an
opportunity to demonstrate what is possible when more rigorous
methods are applied. While many projects have created models using highly accurate rendering systems, Second Life can add
value to this work by providing tools for social engagement for
a broader audience (Di Blas, 2003, 2005; Eiteljorg, 2004). The
serious leisure activities of Second Life residents also suggest
a more open and inquiry based approach to learning. Instead
of presenting students with already completed models, Second
Life can engage students through co-creation and collaborative
This poster will present examples of museum-like spaces and
activities taking place in Second Life with a particular focus
on archeological-themed representations. It will illustrate how
Second Life museums are largely the product of resident’s
serious leisure activities. Using these activities as an example
of what is possible it will explore how early attempts at teaching
in Second Life might be informed by resident’s serious leisure
Figure 1: Themiskyra Throne Room
Castronova, Edward. Synthetic Worlds: The Business and
Culture of Online Games. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2006.
Di Blas, Nicoletta, Evelyne Gobbo, and Paolo Paolini. "The
SEE Experience: Edutainment in 3D Virtual Worlds." Museums
and the Web 2003: Selected Papers from an International
Conference. Ed. David Bearman and Jennifer Trant. Pittsburgh,
PA: Archives & Museum Informatics, 2003. 173-182. <http
Di Blas, Nicoletta, Evelyne Gobbo, and Paolo Paolini. "3D
Worlds and Cultural Heritage Realism vs. Virtual Presence."
Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings. Ed. David Bearman
and Jennifer Trant. Toronto, Ontario: Archives & Museum
Informatics, 2005. <
Eiteljorg II, Harrison. "Computing for Archeologists." A
Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray
Siemens and John Unsworth. Malden, MA: Blackwell
Publishing Ltd, 2004. 20-30.
Orr, Noreen. "Museum Volunteering: Heritage as ‘Serious
Leisure’ ." International Journal of Heritage Studies 12.2
(2006): 194-210.
Stebbins, Robert A. Amateurs, Professionals and Serious
Leisure. Montreal: Queens University Press, 1992.
Steinkueler, Constance, and Dmitri Williams. "Where
Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name: Online Games as
‘Third Places’ ." Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication 11.4 Article 1 (2006).
Urban, Richard, Paul F. Marty, and Michael B. Twidale. "A
Second Life For Your Museum: 3D Multi-user Virtual
Environments and Museums." Museums & the Web 2007
Yee, Nick. "The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the
Boundaries of Work and Play ." Games and Culture 1 (2006):
68-71. <

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2007

Hosted at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States

June 2, 2007 - June 8, 2007

106 works by 213 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (2)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None