Friday, June 4, 2010

Heritage Key - The Museum Gateway

(Continues loosely from here.)

Back at the Travel Center, I stepped into the last teleporter, taking me to "The Museum." (The British Museum, it would appear; perhaps in the UK there is only one museum.) (It's a joke - no angry comments about all the fine museums throughout the country.)

I found myself in front of the museum on a very gray day. Several people were on hand to greet me,...

...including this street vendor. I was directed up the steps, into the museum itself. (In retrospect, I was perhaps not dressed to period standards. Ah well. I had just arrived from the 1920s, as the reader may recall.)

The central chamber offered several options for destinations.

I first chose the terra cotta warriors. These were constructed in the third century BC for the emperor Qin Shi Huang, and were intended to be his “army” in the afterlife. They were discovered in 1974 near Xi’an. Estimates are that workmen created over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots (with 520 horses), and 150 cavalry horses. (My typist saw an exhibit on the warriors at the National Geographic headquarters this past March.) The present exhibit discusses the emperor’s life and conquests, describes the funerary arrangements, and displays models of the warriors and other objects found in the necropolis. One interesting aspect is the set of panoramic photographs of the warriors.

Below, a selection of figures. the three on the left are shown in color, as they may have been painted originally. Turning color on or off is an option for the visitor.

As an aside, apparently the emperor was buried with his concubines. He was obviously not a man who believed that you can't take it with you.

My next destination was the Palace at Nineveh, where I viewed the stone relief of the Assyrian lion hunt. Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, was at the convergence of the Tigris and Khosr Rivers in what is now Iraq. Although Nineveh is mentioned as far ago as 1800 BC, and the city is mentioned several times in the Bible, the empire had its heyday in the seventh century BC. The city was attacked several times and finally defeated and razed in 612 BC.

The bas-relief stonework depicted below shows the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-631 BC) and his exploits in a lion hunt.

The third option was a series of panoramic views of World Heritage sites. Though the only one available at present was of the Tower of London, there are several different views. As with the terra cotta warriors, the exhibit puts the visitor in the center of the view, and turning around provides the entire 360 degree perspective.

Finally, treasures from the museum provide a handful of objects, with descriptions and the history of each. For example, as can be seen below, one such object is the Rosetta Stone. The single sign to the left of the stone has multiple cards that the vistor can click through to learn about the stone, what it was originally used for, how it was found, and how it was used to decipher the hieroglyphs by using the two known languages. As with the panoramic views, it appears that the display is not yet complete; judging by the space available, I would assume more is to come.

I found this to be the weakest of the Heritage Key destinations, mainly because it replicated the standard "museum experience" so faithfully. In contrast, the other destinations were more immersive, extending the metaphor of avatar-as-individual to the historical environments. Of course, if one can't get to the British Museum, or the Tower of London, or a terra cotta warriors exhibit, a virtual museum experience is better than none.

Performance over the last few visits was rock-solid. I had the place to myself, or so it appeared, so I don't know how well the sims would fare with a heavy user load. Still, it's been a pleasant experience all around.

Next in the series: Steamfish. I haven't forgotten about why I started this to begin with.

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