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A History of the World in 100 objects

May 18, 2010

"Small Pieces Loosely Joined" by bru76 (CCBySA)

A History of the World in 100 objects is a BBC programme that is produced in collaboration with the British Museum and broadcasts daily on BBC Radio 4. It is also published as a podcast. Each episode is about 14 minutes long and focusses on a single, human-made artifact. The series began on 18 January with a story about the Mummy of Hornedjitef, which dates from the third century B. C. Every day, from Monday to Friday, a new episode about a different object is broadcast (and podcast). Each week represents a collection of five artifacts on a particular theme. As I write this, I am listening to a story about object number 31, a coin with the head of Alexander, which was published on 17 May.

It is worth visiting the BBC website that supports this series. You can see an image of the object with descriptive text and links, listen to previous episodes, learn about events relating to your geographic area (if you live in the UK), follow the blog and the facebook page, explore links to related learning resources, and become active offline by getting involved in various activities. You can also add your own object to the collection, and an interactive timeline allows viewers to find objects according to their date and other attributes.

This project serves as an example of how discrete bits of useful information can be used to create experiences that involve the reader and viewer through the use of  immersive narratives and engaging activities. The project encourages uploading and downloading, reading and writing, and searching and synthesizing. As the producers explain, this is not a history of different civilizations, but a story of endless connections between civilizations, people, and the things people have made. Like the Internet itself, this is a story of small pieces loosely joined.

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