In the beginning…

At the risk of boring you all to tears with yet another foray into ancient history of sl, perhaps you’ll indulge me one more time as i don my Tony Robinson avatar and get stuck in to another virtual Time Team dig?

My travels this time have brought me to the SL Historical Museum – not in itself an ancient monument – or, for that matter, a particularly pretty one, (it reminded me a lot of the Tate, St Ives); what attracted me to this particular museum is the collection that it houses.

Here is where i have to express just a teeny bit of cynicism about museum collections – whether virtual or in rl – that purport to exhibit relics from the past, a cynicism arising from experience. There are few things more disappointing to the ardent explorer of times past, than thinking you’re looking at a genuine example of, say a Neanderthal wristwatch, only to find when reading the accompanying blurb on the neatly typed card beneath it, that the item in question is a completely genuine… replica – all of a few years old and crafted from polystyrene and fibreglass. It does tend to make you just a little wary about accepting what you are seeing as the genuine article – and, i’m sorry to say, i feel the same reservations about any museum of the past based in sl.

It’s even harder to tell, with virtual assets, just what is genuine and what isn’t. Call me daft, but when i go to a museum i want to see the genuine article and not a replica, but there’s no way of knowing whether what you’re looking at is the real thing or a much later facsimile. i realise i’m probably being a little pedantic here and, of course, a straight copy of an object in sl is, by all accounts, a pixel by pixel duplicate, and i accept that – but i’m not so sure about a later reproduction… It just isn’t the same thing.

Anyway; back to the Museum: There’s some fascinating stuff there and a real effort has been made to gather together a host of articles of historical significance under one roof – everything from the very first scripted vehicle, (remarkably sleek, considering it was the first of its kind), right through to notecards containing snippets of early developer meetings, the social, economic and political history of sl and technical notes through the years. My particular favourite is reproduced below – The Great Upskirt Rebellion – Dugi. take note!

It all began when one user created a small building with a screen that cycled through various up-skirt shots of various avatars from all around SL. Very few (if any) of these screenshots were given permission to be displayed, so many people demanded their pictures be taken down. It developed into an arguement of privacy rights as well as intellectual property discussion (the arguement that one has certain ownership rights over their avatar and how it is presented), versus the display of images publicly visible to anyone who cared to “Alt-Cam” to see up others skirts themselves. Eventualy Linden Lab decided that the pictures were not within TOS/CS standards deeming them “offensive”, the resident who owned the object was suspended for 3 days. The pictures were at first left up during the residents suspension, this caused the resident to become concerned that they would get suspended even longer for it, so the pictures were deleted by aLindenat the request of the owner. The discussion continued in the forums for a slight time after this happened, then eventualy the topic was closed after petering out.

The paucity of objects on display from the early days of sl was a little disappointing but i suppose the chances of anything of any great age surviving from that time is pretty remote. (Have you ever stopped to think that today’s freebie tat could well be tomorrow’s collector’s item?). There was one object that particularly caught my eye – a totally inconsequential and easily overlooked item – all the more remarkable that it should have survived – an small, unassuming Beta Tester’s badge… to me, the equivalent of a tiny Roman coin, unearthed from a huge pile of spoil.

One thing that there’s no shortage of at the Museum is pictures of old sl, all displayed on those annoying rotating texture things you find in shops – a method of display that irritates me intensely! Even so, i enjoyed the glimpses into the past that they afforded and, although a photograph makes a poor substitute for the real thing, these are the closest that most of us will ever get to knowing what the early days of sl were like.

During your visit, you have the opportunity to pick up your own free ‘Primitar’ – the Linden World predecessors of our avatars. Whether these are the real thing, (which i doubt), or later imitations, i don’t know, and i haven’t yet had a chance to play with mine to find out – but it’s a nice touch and a tangible connection to the ‘prehistoric’ virtual world.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the SL Historical Museum is how little there is to be seen there – i think it’s shocking that so little thought has been given over the years to preserving the heritage and history of sl… When the sum total of a world’s most historic artefacts can be housed in a space not much bigger than a small shop, you have to wonder!

There was a further disappointment awaiting me on the day of my visit – i returned home by way of Plum, where one of the original sandboxes of sl can be found. Here i hoped to find the Beta Tester’s Memorial Wall: What i did find there were griefers and a very depressing atmosphere… What i didn’t find was the Wall; just an empty space where it should have been. Ah, well, as Buddha once said… “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.”

As it was in the past (Photo credit: Linden Lab).... And as it is now

s. x

“Nothing changes more constantly than the past”
Gerald W Johnson 

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