Net benefits;Scottish Heritage

24th April 1998 at 01:00
How can you wander through the drystone streets of Skara Brae, in Orkney, savour the art nouveau decor of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh house in Glasgow, and explore the crypt of Melrose Abbey in the Borders - all in one afternoon?

It sounds more like an episode of Dr Who than a day in the life of a teacher, but time travel will soon be possible from your classroom chair.

While the National Museum of Scotland prepares to show the nation to the world, a pound;15 million millennium project is taking the most famous buildings and artefacts of Scottish heritage out to schools and libraries in every corner of the country. And at a fraction of the cost of group visits.

They may not be able to take in the atmosphere, or touch and smell tangible objects, but you can move and turn them around, as well as obtain hypothetical reconstructions of how they might once have looked.

All this is made possible by SCRAN, the Internet website of the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network, which is being viewed as an example to the rest of the UK.

With pound;7.5 million from the Millennium Commission and the goodwill and co-operation of key organisations like the National Museums of Scotland, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, hundreds of thousands of visuals will be scanned in and accompanied by short essays and timelines to help travellers, young and old, to move around. Virtual reality clips will let you enter the Mackintosh studio drawing room and walk up to the mirror above the fireplace; or handle for the first time objects that are normally kept behind glass.

Pick up Lucy, one of the Hominid heads in Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum. Tip her head back and "morph" it to see what she would have looked like with skin; or turn a brooch to look at the engraving on the back.

Archive film lets you see children at school in 1925 or, if you're studying the Tay Bridge Disaster, look at a photograph of the original bridge and watch a steam train in motion. Coming down the line in future, courtesy of Historic Scotland, will be the Stone of Destiny, an immense collection of aerial photographs of sites like New Lanark, from the Royal Commission, and Glasgow's collection of Impressionist paintings.

Anyone can look up the website now and get access to sample thumbnail pictures and text. And as of August, schools will be able to purchase a licence (for about pound;50 per primary and pound;100 per secondary) that enables them to access full moving video and virtual reality images. Schools will also be able to print and blow up images. SCRAN would, however, prefer to arrange the licences through education authorities.

SCRAN's website address is: http:\\ series of education roadshows will tour Scotland from now until the end of June, and leaflets will go out to schools in August. For details, call SCRAN on 0131 662

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