This panel explored how games and entertainment platforms can be used to bring collections to life and broaden their appeal to new audiences. The panel considered some of the creative challenges in developing such platforms and how they can make meaningful contributions to the interpretation of collections.

Simon Wilson, Hull History Centre

HullCraft is a community-built, virtual world created using the computer game Minecraft, taking inspiration from the archives at the Hull History Centre. A selection of architectural plans by Yorkshire architect Francis Johnson were digitised and placed online ( to allow players to recreate the buildings in the game.

This initial concept has been extended and now features a virtual Hull History Centre constructed from 18,450 blocks. The site has attracted gamers of all ages, especially those aged between 10-15 with an even balance of boys and girls. Participants learn about the architectural history of Hull and the region through engagement with the historical documents and re-create some amazing buildings either on their own or by collaborating virtually with others.

The introduction of Bring Your Own Device workshops at the History Centre has brought the gamers together in the real world and led to further collaborative efforts. The next phase of the project, thanks to funding from the Ferens Education Trust, will seek to inform, train and inspire teachers with the pedagogic potential that Minecraft has to offer and how it can bring people into archives and public spaces with a shared passion.

The session will introduce the world of Minecraft for those not familiar with it, the barriers we have encountered and the lessons we have learned (so far). We hope that it might inspire similar journeys and further collaborative opportunities.

Nick Webber and Sian Vaughan, Birmingham City University

Games, and in particular video games, are often highlighted as a route through which ‘younger’ audiences can be encouraged to engage with heritage content, in this case archive content. Embedded within discourses of ‘the digital’, such projects represent the collision of two very different cultural processes, and tend to conceal

a complicated structure of assumptions and tensions which work to undermine the successful delivery of interventions of this kind. Archivists and game designers may have markedly different perspectives on what
constitutes a game, what is an appropriate and sensitive use of archive material, and who the audiences for an archive game might, or should, be. Yet, at heart, both communities play a role which involves the careful control of interaction in order to deliver a curated cultural experience.

In this paper, we explore the tensions inherent in relationships between the communities of the archive profession and those of game design, through the consideration of a current archive game project with the West Midlands Regional Archive Forum. We raise questions about the viability of such activities, explore the motivations and objectives of project participants, and reflect on the clash of cultures which such projects can represent. In addition, we consider the role of the intermediary, in this instance an arts collective, in facilitating creative collaboration between two very different domains of cultural expertise which share both some common objectives and the characteristics of passion, dedication and enthusiasm for their work

Rachel Hosker and Claire Knowles, University of Edinburgh

A practical look at how the University of Edinburgh (UoE) has made collections more widely accessible, inclusive and discoverable. This will include:

  1. Crowdsourcing tags for digitised collections media (images, audio and video)
  2. Writing short, engaging descriptions for online and digital interpretation using the UoE Piccolo method
  3. Crowdsourcing specific skills
  4. Palaeography – unravelling handwritten collections
  5. Transcription and translation of languages found in collections

We will share how we developed these ideas, skills needed and how developers, archivists, librarians and curators came together to consider how we creatively disseminate collections whilst maintaining authoritative, authentic descriptions. Consideration will be given to satisfying audience needs, from the academic to the general public.

The significant proportion of this session will look at online portals (through and

  1. Piccolo approaches to digital interpretation
  2. Metadata Games for tagging digitised images of collections
  3. Palaeography for crowdsourcing specific skills
  4. how to select images and metadata to maximise your collections online

We will discuss how to encourage a sense of play, get competitive about metadata and interpretation to explain our approaches to crowdsourcing. We will demonstrate ideas for engagement with diverse communities and skill-sets to enhance the understanding, democratisation and wider use of collections.

The speakers from UoE’s Library and University Collections will come from teams who have worked closely together to develop these initiatives.