The latest edition of Designing Worlds (episode 73) was extraordinarily fact-filled, in my view. Of course, we always have quite a lot of information in our programmes, but our guests from Bristol University had a great deal to share with us about the Pompeii Court at the Sydenham Crystal Palace and their re-creation of it in Second Life. Do have a look at the show.
Gwendoline Beningborough and Lucien Krenfel have done a wonderful job here. The Crystal Palace was originally designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Hyde Park London, Great Exhibition of 1851. After the event, it was moved to Sydenham in South London, to the hilltop site of Penge Palace, overlooking London and re-opened in 1854.
Virtually everything in the reconstructed Palace was a fake - a re-creation, most of all the Fine Arts Courts which reconstructed aspects of life in faraway historical civilisations: Ancient Egypt, Greece and MediÃƒÂ¦val England to name but three. Each court featured buildings and art from the region or period, reconstructed to the best of knowledge at the time.
Such it was with the Pompeii Court, which relied on excavations in Pompeii that had been going on for over a century. What the Victorians were creating was their own version of an "immersive environment". The so-called House of the Tragic Poet, recreated here, was the setting for Bulwer-Lytton's 1834 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii, and that became another reason for the crowds to flock to the Palace exhibit.
So, what happens when you re-create a recreation? In 1854, Londoners and those from further afield were exposed to the culture and art of an ancient Roman city, including that civilisation's open attitude to nudity, for example. Reviews of the time varied from appreciation to disgust. Now we come to the recreation, in our own virtual world, of this 19th-Century immersive environment and we bring a culture clash of our own. How do we see the Victorians seeing the Romans? Watch the show and find out - and do be sure to visit the site yourself. Read more at the web site: http://sydenhamcrystalpalace.wordpress.com/