Abstract

We will use the latest augmented reality technology to explore past processes, particularly skills that are in danger of being lost, and bring new group of users to the British Library archives.

As a prototype, through a group learning experience, we will use digital images from the earliest photo books (mid 19thC) to recreate a 12-page hand-processed, hand-printed, hand-bound book that will digitally come to life through augmented reality (including video and 2D & 3D imaging) delivered via an app.

‘Blueprints’ is an online and offsite project that immerses a group of 6th form photography students from South Wales in part of the digital collection of the British Library. Together with the BL they will create an exciting new product that we will present at the Hay Festival, Museum Next and the Frankfurt Book Fair as a prototype for others developing this model of using the BL collection with other groups and demographics.

This is a hands-on project that showcases each element of the British Library’s 'Living Knowledge' vision presented by Roly Keating in January 2015 ‘to make intellectual heritage accessible to everyone for research, inspiration and enjoyment.’ Through this project we will make connections between: Onsite, online and offsite learning; Physical and digital collections; Research and curation; Objects and stories; Content and context.

Although this prototype project is aimed at a younger audience in a deprived area of South Wales, the concept, process and product could be adapted in many ways and contexts. (It could work well as a tie-in with the BL Learning’s ‘Ways of Reading’ or as an international, multi-lingual project focused on part of the BL’s extensive East Asian and Middle Eastern collections.)

The prototype:
‘Blueprints’ will introduce a little known part of the British Library digital collection to an unlikely audience. It will give them the opportunity and the tools to be involved in and create new stories and objects around the digital archives.

Our project is inspired by Anna Atkins, the first person to publish a book illustrated with photograph images ('Photographs of British Algae', 1843). The result was not only ground-breaking, but also beautiful; featuring images hand developed using the cyanotype process to produce a striking blue print.

Working with Merthyr Tydfil College photography department, we will explore the British Library digital archives of early photographic books with a group of students on the foundation course. We will particularly focus on images of Dinas Rock & Waterfalls in South Wales, taken by RP Napper of the British & Foreign Portrait company, published in 1864.
The students will make a site visit to Dinas Rock and shoot new photos of that landscape. They will create negatives both from the digital images in the British Library archives and from their own photos. From these negatives they replicate the cyanotype process to produce photographically illustrated pages for a 12-page hand printed book.

The development of this book, including the collaboration and input from the British Library curatorial and Digital Labs team, will be documented. This will form the narrative for the hand-printed book, which be told through surprising digital content via an app. The book will exist on two levels:-

i. As beautiful hand-printed book that reinterprets archive images found in the British Library digital archives
ii. Digitally, through a purpose built app which will quite literally bring the pages to life and tell the story of the archive images, the book, and the group of students who became curators and publishers.

Using PEEL Interactive’s augmented reality technology; each of the 12 pages of the book will have unique digital content including:

• Videos showing the photography, printing & book-making process
• Interviews with those involved in the project (including British Library curators, the BL Learning and BL Labs teams and the students)
• 2D animations, 3D models and 360 degree panoramas
• Voice over recordings describing processes, project involvement, the photographs etc.

The learning experiences for the students include interaction with the British Library, their local landscape and connection with heritage; experience of new creative practices; and an opportunity to explore the uses of new technology.