Archive aids pupils in recreation of Blitz experience
What was it like to live through the Blitz?
Pupils at Rottingdean's Longhill High School have been finding out - by developing characters and other content for a computer game that recreates the experience of World War 2, with the help of first-hand accounts of the Blitz from the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex.
The groundbreaking digital resource, Lives at War, which has just been launched as part of Brighton Digital Festival, was developed by Brighton-based arts agency Lighthouse, Screen Archive South East, and design and communications agency Corporation Pop with help from the Mass Observation Archive.
Funded by the Digital Film Archive Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lives at War provides an interactive way of using archive WW2 film footage to create a virtual world - a fictitious Brighton street of the 1940s.
Using game technology, 'players' are drawn in to the lives and experiences of air-raid survivors, through a number of task-based activities. Each player chooses an avatar (an onscreen version of themselves) through which to interact with other characters they meet on the street.
Pupils visited Special Collections in the University Library to examine diaries, posters and survey material collected by Mass Observation during World War 2.
They used the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of archival research work while finding materials that they could use to 'furnish' the virtual world.
Fiona Courage, Curator of the Mass Observation Archive, says: "The project illustrates how archives can provide a valuable resource for encouraging individuals at all ages and levels to engage innovatively with past communities."
The pupils from Longhill, aged 14 to 15, also met and interviewed war survivors in Brighton, visited other museums, galleries and archives (including Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Whitehawk Air Raid Shelter and Lighthouse) and researched original film footage from the Screen Archive South East to help them create an authentic virtual world.
The pupils were supported along the way by filmmaker Annis Joslin, alongside teachers, historians and archivists.