History - I Tweet Dead People

24th August 2012 at 01:00
Unlocking the secrets of the Ivory Bangle Lady of York

A young 4th-century Roman has been communicating from beyond the grave, giving visitors to the Yorkshire Museum rare access to previously hidden details of her mysterious life. And she is also revealing some of the latest archaeological developments that have helped uncover some of her secrets.

The I Tweet Dead People project is an innovative scheme that harnesses new technology to bring history to life. It's one of six ingenious projects given #163;50,000 by the Bristol-based Heritage Sandbox scheme to pilot and develop its idea.

"We recently held a test day at the museum and it was hugely successful," says Paul Davies, a digital design associate with Imagemakers, the consultancy behind the technology.

The novelty of the scheme lies in its marrying of two distinct technologies - tweeting and digital projection.

"We have developed a trail and people joining it are asked to tweet the one-word answers to various questions at a number of points - such as the Roman name for York: Eboracum," Davies says. "The code we have devised then scans Twitter for these unusual words, which triggers the video of an actress playing the Ivory Bangle Lady of York. She then tells her part of the tale with each instalment taking the visitor on a tour of relevant exhibits."

And it's an intriguing story. While her burial goods went on display following the discovery of her sarcophagus in 1901, her remains languished in storage. In 2007, new analysis techniques were applied to her skull and her likely North African origins and mixed race were established.

Called the Ivory Bangle Lady because of the rare jewellery found in her grave, her existence challenges the idea that migration within the Roman Empire was mainly the preserve of soldiers and slaves. As her grave goods reveal, this young lady enjoyed high status and may well have been a Christian.

"This is an approach that could be applied in museums and other heritage sites across the country," says Davies. "Soon young people could be learning about the past by tweeting dead people across the UK."

Jerome Monahan is a freelance teacher and journalist. He provides inset and pupil enrichment workshops both nationally and internationally.


Heritage Sandbox supports six projects exploring new heritage experiences. For more information go to www.watershed.co.ukishedheritagesandbox

For ideas about how to use Twitter in the classroom, try Pooky TES's resource full of ideas tweeted by teachers.


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