Thursday 22 January 2015

HullCraft Presents at the Digital Utopias Conference

On the 20th January I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to present at the Digital Utopias conference run by Arts Council England.
The aim of the conference was to “capture topical and diverse approaches to curation, archiving, collecting and creating from a range of art forms, from the visual arts to theatre” (Arts Council England). With this in mind, I went to the conference in the knowledge that I was going to be surrounded by lots of highly creative, digitally-minded experts... and I wasn't wrong!

I was presenting alongside Joel Mills (iLearning UK) in the "Curating Networks" session on our engagement project called HullCraft (see This was my first national conference as a speaker. The most anxious part was waiting on the stage knowing I'm up next! Once it was my turn, I soon realised it was easier to speak than I had initially thought as the theatre became a sea of silhouettes rather than faces.

In the ten minute (and timed!) slot I spoke about many aspects of the HullCraft project, from how it came about, how the project opens up the archival material of Francis Johnson to participants and the people of Hull, and how Minecraft affects the user’s experience of learning about archives.

Joel then spoke about the research he has been doing with HullCraft and Minecraft in Higher Education, the future plans of HullCraft (such as Bring Your Own Device days, teacher workshops) and potential developments for linking in with Hull City of Culture 2017. 

The most exciting part of our talk was the “world premiere” of our HullCraft trailer which you can watch below (make sure you have it on full screen and your speakers on - it’s VERY exciting!)

There were lots of other interesting talks at Digital Utopias too!
The day began with a welcome from Martin Green, head of Hull City of Culture, who advocated that Hull has a “digital cluster” and is already paving the way as a digital utopia. There was a very positive and energetic feeling in the theatre when a vast show of hands arose to the question of "who's from Hull?" demonstrating his point that Hull is certainly paving the way as a "digital utopia".

Afterwards I went to see James Davis, Programme Manager at the Google Cultural Institute. I was most interested in his talk on their online exhibition of collections from museums and archives from around the world, all curated by the institutions themselves. My favourite aspect of the project was the World Wonders digital exhibition which enables you to browse and interact with historical locations such as Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal using street view, 3D animations and archaeological and archival photographs. James spoke about how the technology allows for institutions to collaborate on content curation and to extend the reach of their digital collections globally.

I also attended the “Archiving and Preserving in the Digital Age” clinic session led by Dragan Espenchied (Rhizome) and Luke Collins (Lux). This session asked: how do we ensure long-term access to digital information through collecting, archiving and preservation, and how do we archive digital art? During this workshop we explored emulation, migration and the issues surrounding preserving ever-evolving media. This is an area I find fascinating and is something I'm hoping to research more into during my traineeship.

Overall I had a fantastic day promoting the Hull History Centre in front of a huge audience and I hope we have inspired people to look further into integrating Minecraft with their work. This was a great opportunity to showcase HullCraft to an arts, heritage and culture audience, and I felt very privileged to have spoken on the same stage as the Google Cultural Institute and the V&A!

As we were busy presenting it meant we missed a lot of other talks, so have a look on the Arts Council England Website to see the online programme for the full list of presenters and to view official photography, podcasts and videos. See if you can spot us!

You can also follow the Twitter conversation with #artsdigital and #digitalutopias

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee

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