Is the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project Good History?

When people responded to Dr. Graham’s tweet asking for their favourite digital history projects, many were submitting what appeared to be their own work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this – when one of the major players in a field asks for contributions, it is somewhat expected that people would want that player to see their work. However, it does mean that many of these may or may not be that… accurate. Which I suppose is why we are being posed this question.

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project (VPCP hereon out) caused quite a ruckus in our discussion for a variety of reasons. The first being that it’s similar to the Voices [?] project Dr. Graham has shown in class before, which had quite a negative effect on some members of the class due to the cacophony of noise it produces. So some members of the group had that bias.

On a positive note, VPCP does not attempt to assume many things, and when it does, it makes it clear. For example, one can choose between a variety of options in terms of how many people are in the square, as the team creating the installation were unable to find conclusive information as to how many people were in the square.

The issue our group debated was whether the project itself, ie. the audio, was truly accurate. The project seeks to recreate the experience of being in the square on that day, and we had much debate over whether the levels of the ambient noise, in particular, were true to life. Several of us argued that it was quite possibly that it is just incredibly difficult to digitally recreate a truly accurate human experience in that regard, as people in such situations will generally be able to tune the background noise out and focus on the sermon. This experience was not reflected very well in the project, as for the most part, one can barely her the sermon.

Having researched a bit more into the project, I still slightly agree that it is probably near impossible to truly recreate such complex human reactions. However, I now know that the difficulty hearing the sermon actually IS accurate. Beyond the main page, there are vast troves of information, explaining why certain choices were made in the project, such as the ambient noise in the background. It was much cited that unless one was standing directly in front of the puplit, it became incredibly difficult to hear what was being said. So our complaints that we could not hear are actually part of the experience.

Overall, I find VPCP to be good history. It presents a seemingly small concept, but in reality, creating it was a massive undertaking. Every single choice they made in regards to the project is backed up by various primary and secondary sources, and I feel comfortable in saying that they likely created a very accurate and immersive representation of what it would have been like to be in the square.

Final Challenge

When looking at the things tweeted at professor Graham’s twitter, many tweeted their favourite ongoing digital history projects. Many tweeted links to projects to put history online and record it like the World War One New Zealanders project or the Building Inspector. Whatever these projects are doing, what makes them good digital history?

Looking at the Building Inspector, the New York Public Library allows others to look at old maps of the streets of New York and fill in the addresses of the section of the buildings on the maps. The whole point is to produce a comprehensive directory of old New York using computers and people to harvest the vast amounts of data from these maps. This is to make it easier to search for these places and ask new questions about these places that make be forgotten and changes in urban planning. Simply put, using the public in order to organize the materials of history  to be online is very much good digital history. Analyzing thousands of these documents are very difficult so employing basically faceless volunteers, the New York Public Library have used the public to create digital history.

These documents may not be seen for years and with numerous people looking over the documents in order to make sure all of the information is correct is a very different and unique way to create good digital history.

Group B’s Pechakucha – A Slave in Portus

This is Group B’s short presentation on what our game is about and our thoughts on how history looks/should look in a game such as Minecraft.


Slide 1 – What The Game is About:
It’s about slavery in ancient Rome, specifically in the city of Portus, located on the Italian peninsula. In the game the player is a slave who has just arrived in the city of Portus. He or she was a prisoner of war, whose been shipped to Portus from a distant land. Portus originally was one of Rome’s main ports who saw a lot of slave traffic.


Slide 2 – Gameplay:
The player originally starts out on a ship. After docking the player is guided to the market place to be sold. From then on they are commanded through a series of tasks that require manual labour. Throughout the game the player will be locked into a specific path within the city. They will be unable to have the freedom to explore and move about the city at their free will. We really wanted to make the player feel like they are specifically shackled to a certain task. There is really only one way to win the game and that is by working within the limitations that have been given.


Slide 3 – Limitations:
The game is meant to be frustrating to the player because Minecraft is meant to be an open world game and we are making it have limitations, therefore saying ‘no you can’t do this, you’re a slave.’ slaves in Rome didn’t have any rights. They were told what to do and when to do it. We wanted to game to have a similar feel. While creating this game Minecraft actually limited us. In Minecraft you can break and build anything. The freedom of Minecraft is what made it difficult for us to achieve our goal of truly limiting the player. This speaks to the problems of emulations. It was hard to create out game in Minecraft. It’s hard to create a game with so many limitations in a game that’s meant for free will.


Slide 4 – Historical Representation:
We tried to be as accurate as possible given the medium. Unfortunately without any artistic talent it was difficult to create an exact representation of the city, especially working with world painter. We tried base the representation of our city off of the models of Portus, but getting the scaling of the city just right is very difficult in Minecraft. Luckily we had access to a theme pack that changed the graphics of Minecraft to look more romanesque, which helps deepen immersion.


Slide 5 – Is it Good History?:
The game shows the player what it was like to be a slave in ancient Roman times. Through a counter factual history the player is exposed to something that didn’t necessarily happen, but that might have happened given the conditions present during the period. This might foster historical thought and questioning and allow them to reach their own conclusions concerning slavery in ancient Roman times themselves. Slavery isn’t particularly made well known. Rome was known to have a great military force, but what about slavery?


Challenge 6

Challenge six


Ride through the past


The participants of this event will be drawn in by n email asking them to go on a journey to discover the land of Ottawa.


In this game all the individual has to do is to arrive at a dock on the Ottawa River.

Once on the boat all the participants will be given rings that have the years 1524, 1610, 1613, 1650 and 1670 written on them.


The game will begin when the boat starts to move. As the participants move along the river small boats that have banners displaying key events in Ottawa’s history prior to the 18th century. The goal of the game is to throw the ring into the boat that tells of the historical event that occurred during the year on the ring.


I made the game this way in order to make the participants have to both perform mental work along with physical work.