No, this headline isn’t the plot of some low-budget 90’s science fiction film, we’re serious! Special Collections has teamed up with the Open Virtual Worlds team at St Andrews to bring our presence into the 4th dimension. For the past few years, a team of computer scientists, art historians (including Professor Richard Fawcett, Dr Julian Luxford) and graphic designer Sarah Kennedy have been working on creating a virtual, to-scale model using an open source platform. This has resulted in the wonderful Virtual St Andrews Cathedral, which can be viewed, strolled through and interacted with using an OpenSim platform.
Earlier this year, the team’s co-ordinators, Alan Miller and Lisa Dow, sat down with members of Special Collections to see if and how we could get involved in this already very well developed resources. After a brief discussion, we realized that there was a great deal that we could do together, and so we developed some ideas for a short-term project: Flexible Access to Medieval Books (FAB). This project, designed for an MSc dissertation, will take a two pronged approach to integrating Special Collections into this new virtual environment: 1) we will identify what manuscripts and charters were known to have been in the Cathedral Priory in the 12th century (held both here at St Andrews and further afield), produce 3D object scans of each item, create a 3D representation of each book or charter and place them back in the Cathedral Priory’s book presses, and 2) a virtual exhibition space will be designed that will enable flexible access to Special Collections’ material, a space which will not be constrained by the same considerations of cost that a real world exhibition would.
In order to get this new project off the ground, a collaborative project bid between Open Virtual Worlds in Computer Science, Special Collections and Art History was made to the SELF fund for technological support and guidance. We learned yesterday that the bid was successful, and so the project will be beginning very shortly! Watch this space for more information!