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A piece of the interaction

Kay Smith looks at a multimedia project for the millennium. Scotland's history will be allowed to unfold through interactive multimedia programmes in the first information technology project to be funded by the Millennium Commission.

SCRAN 2000 - the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network - will produce CD-Roms full of images of Scottish museum exhibits and historic sites together with sounds and texts.

Over five years, the project will cost Pounds 15 million with funds from its founder members - the National Museums of Scotland, the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Scottish Museum Council - being matched by the Millennium Commission.

The money will go towards meeting the high cost of producing multimedia programmes. Through a subscription scheme of Pounds 20 for a primary school and Pounds 100 for a secondary, SCRAN 2000 will ensure that the programmes are within the reach of all educational organisations.

Production should begin in May after the Millennium Commission deal is finalised.

Educationists have been asked to contribute to the content of the programmes. Topics include the whaling industry, the Vikings, Scottish history from 1840 to 1940, and on the Braveheart period of Wallace and Bruce.

Michael Spearman, head of multimedia at the Museum of Scotland, said: "This is a partnership between museums and schools.

"Teachers in the classroom should be in a position to determine the images they will use."

The first programmes should be available next year. Then the only obstacle may be the limited number of multimedia computers available in schools.

Dr Spearman admits that SCRAN is looking to education authorities to invest in computer technology.

"We have got to look to the next generation. So far multimedia computers tend to be found only in the school library or in the computing department. Schools instead need a whole classroom kitted out with 20 machines," Dr Spearman said.

SCRAN 2000 aims to be the catalyst for this level of investment. "It's a chicken and egg situation. If there is nothing there to warrant the investment it won't happen. We are creating a a substantial cultural resource.

"It's now up to others - once they can see what it does - to invest in the future," Dr Spearman added.

"We are looking for a change in attitude which will lead to a decision by central Government that it should provide the funds necessary to equip every school with a multimedia classroom, much in the same way that schools were equipped a quarter of a century ago with language laboratories," he said.

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