Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Christmas Presence Online

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Christmas Presence Online

Article excerpt

A simple click of the mouse or knowing a few key search words can unlock a rich treasure trove of the past. And as we reach the darkest time of year Tim Crump asks what better time to do this either at home or from your local library?

It's often intrigued me how computer-speak has so many historic sounding words. It sounds as though we're just about to leave some medieval manor with its portals, gateways and icons to navigate our way leaving traces of our history in a cache.

Real history has been cached in our museums, archives and libraries for centuries. However, because of their fragility these can often only be viewed by appointment and then with gloves on.

The possibilities offered by digital technologies has changed all that. Scanning ancient documents and photographs and saving images electronically gives us the chance to clean away blemishes and grime, upload them, download them, and see details we weren't able to see before.

As June Parker from MLA North East ( the regional development agency for our museums, libraries and archives ( explains: "It is sometimes better than looking at the original and avoids the risk of damaging it".

With the original safe, having e-copies lends wings to the imagination. Documents can be brought together, organised and shared in new ways. There's now a chance to take a virtual tram-ride down the High Street in Gateshead towards the Tyne stopping off at tram-stops and admiring shops, offices and landmarks as they were in the 1880s to the 1930s Photographs, maps and trade directories illuminate the journey and give a real flavour of the people, the smoky side-streets and pavement life of Gateshead at the turn of the century.

Using digital records you can not only revisit places but create virtual copies of whole buildings. Linthorpe Pottery near Middlesbrough for example. It was only active for 11 years (1879 -1889 ) but in that period produced ceramics far ahead of its time.

Nothing remains of the pottery apart from plans and some silks hangings used as templates for the designers. The pottery has now been 'digitally rebuilt' from the ground-floor up using architects plans allowing the virtual visitor to go into some of the rooms and view their interiors www. …

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