The month of May saw the close of two special places in the Infoarchipelago – Bradburyville and Only Yesterday. The following stories are written in their memory with accompanying machinima and photographs.
In Memory of Bradburyville
by PIA KLAAR
Machinima by PIA KLAAR
Photo by VERDE OTAARED
On October 5, 2008, a new sim opened in the InfoArchipelago. The announcement for the sim featured the Alliance Library System as a pioneer in the use of virtual worlds to promote librarianship and reading and stated that there would be “a unique walk-in” book during the grand opening of their newest Second Life project, Bradburyville.
That had been enough information to attract myself as well as many others to attend the opening and come back again and again to experience the walk-in book experience, the various other builds in the sim, as well as to attend the numerous educational events, talks, and lectures that took place at Bradburyville over the next few months.
Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, was chosen for “The Big Read,” a reading campaign which involved libraries and schools in Illinois and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Alliance Library System created the Bradburyville sim in Second Life. One of the new features of the Bradburyville sim was the concept of a “walk-in” book – a concept that was used as a way to immerse visitors into the novel. The experience gave visitors not only a way to see replicas of the many settings, characters and scenes in the novel, but also a way to be “immersed” in a virtual, interactive experience that provided the visitor the ability to “read” the novel in a unique manner.
These scenes were created by a group of talented people. Daisyblue Hefferman, an Alliance Virtual Library volunteer, built the scenes using “holorezzer” technology created by Krull Aeon so that each scene in the novel would appear at the appropriate time. The creators used the Second Life technology with a combination of web, video, text and audio features.
According to Hefferman, “ALS received money from a Big Read grant from their State Library, originating from the National Endowment for the Arts. They used some of it to purchase the open sim to create Bradburyville. . . . It was understood at the time that it was a temporary project, perhaps only six months. As it was, we had eight or nine months. When LL made it a homestead sim, that cut the av limit to 20, so of course, that hampered events.” Hefferman added, “We enjoyed working on the project, enjoyed it while it was there, and got many compliments on it. As in all things, it's time to move on. There are millions of other books I could do, too, if only I could settle on which one!”
When the project was first introduced, I had created a machinima on the walk-in book experience, but this alone cannot capture the memory of what Bradburyville encompassed. At that time, Daisyblue was kind enough to give me an interview, and Corwin Howlett gave me a tour. Although I feel that my machinima is not enough to pay tribute to such an incredible place or give thanks to all of the wonderful creators: Daisyblue Hefferman, Krull Aeon, Abbey Zenith and Bucky Barkley, I share it with readers of this article as a way to memorialize Bradburyville in Second Life.
[embed Pia’s machinima on Bradburyville here]
It Seems Like Only Yesterday
by ROLIG LOON
Photos by VERDE OTAARED
Only Yesterday was designed as the successor to the Rich Idiot sim. Rich Idiot, a grant-funded concept, was supposed to look somewhat like the playground of a Great Gatsby wastrel of the Depression Era. It served the purpose reasonably well. I came into the sim as the grant was coming to an end, and decided that Rich Idiot had painted an unbalanced view of the 1930s. I wanted to create a sim that celebrated all of the American experience of the decade, starting at about the stock market crash of 1929 and extending to the start of WWII. Lori was kind enough to let me try.
The idea was to use some of the structures from Rich Idiot, mostly the ones on the plaza at the heart of the sim, and to supplement with new ones to create a fictitious Midwestern community. The plaza itself would include some commercial rentals and would also have public buildings to house exhibits of an educational nature. Those included the bank, which housed documents and artifacts relating to the fiscal and economic environment of the day -- everything from copies of the major Congressional Acts of the New Deal to biographies of John Maynard Keynes and Henry Morgenthal -- as well as links to a terrific website on notorious bank robbers of the day. The bookstore, two doors down, was like the independent store that my mother used to take me to, complete with a "reading room" where visitors could have book group discussions -- which we also did. I built another building to house an ice cream parlor -- I always wanted to do that! -- and more commercial space, and I converted the bandstand on the plaza for use as an exhibit of music from the Jazz Era. Elsewhere on the plaza, Georgette Whitfield created a wonderful exhibit of 1930s fashion trends, and the mansion at the end of the plaza illustrated what life was like for an upper middle class family not suffering badly in the Depression.
Beyond the Plaza, everything on Only Yesterday was not merely redesigned... it was new. We added a movie theatre (originally intended in part as a place to show actual movies until I discovered how hard that would be) that had a great collection of movie posters of the era. Upstairs, it included an exhibit focusing on the Golden Age of Radio, with biographies of Edward R. Murrow and other classical newsmen and an array of essays and photos about the best-known radio programs (Jack Benny, the Lone Ranger, Major Bowes....). Thanks to the miracle of sound recording, you could actually listen to full-length recordings of many radio programs from the decade. Rocksie Slade created an entire midwestern farm to illustrate rural life in the Dustbowl days, complete with a shriveling cornfield and dust clouds. Her farmhouse was meant to simulate those that still stand in Nebraska, where she grew up. The kitchen, in particular, was wonderfully realistic. She also created an outdoor theatre under a canopy, the sort of travelling show that was common in rural areas up until the 1950s. Hers showed photos of rural America from the LOC collections and elsewhere.
I was quite proud of the rail depot, both as an architectural feat and as a moderately faithful reproduction from photos of one that stood in a small Wisconsin town in the mid-1930s. The steam locomotive and rail cars are reproductions of one that was built in 1928(?). The station house itself, moderately shabby, had a continuously-rotating display of photos (and essays) chronicling the change from steam to diesel. Searching for a good name for the depot, I decided to call it Haldin, in honor of our good friend and rail enthusiast, now departed.
The cap on the sim, the counterbalance to the Good Times illustrated elsewhere, was the SE corner. There, I built a crumbling and vacant warehouse and a gathering of makeshift shanties, all meant to illustrate the life of the migrant poor. I tried to show artifacts that would illustrate the family identity of the poor (a child's doll, a woman's daily washing on the line), the meager diet (sausage and a block of cheese, and a kettle of Goodness-Knows-What over a wood fire), and the spirit of the people. There were two large exhibits of photos from the Library of Congress collection of WPA/FSA photographs by Dorothea Langa and others, as well as sound recordings of field interviews in migrant camps. Note card vendors offered extended essays on unemployment, union issues, and life in migrant camps. There and elsewhere around the sim I placed WPA posters to illustrate government efforts to help people train for new jobs, avoid public health problems, and enjoy the arts and literature.
What's left beyond those things I just described were the Rich Idiot yacht -- a little out of place, perhaps, but still a reminder that the Depression Era still had an opulent side -- and Gatsby's, a dinner Club created by Puglet Dancer, that we didn't use as much as we intended for social events. Until earlier this year, the sim also included four lovely rental homes that I had hoped would be attractive and good sources of income for the sim, but never were.
All in all, I think we can be very proud of what we had in Only Yesterday for a year. I am a fiddly detail sort of person, so I tended to add small touches that were not educational in themselves but served to make the place more "real." I think of the hopscotch game chalked on the sidewalk outside the ice cream parlor and the little girl's ice cream cone splatted on the ground next to it. There are bits of chalked graffiti in odd places, a half-eaten sandwich on the stationmaster's desk, a cigarette still smoking in an ashtray, a clock on the outside of the bookshop that tells time accurately and chimes on the hour, and a young woman's hat, pocketbook, and suitcase on a seat in the railway car. For me, Only Yesterday has been a balanced educational venue, as complete and true to the era as I could make it without trying to reproduce a specific place. I wanted it to feel as if you were visiting a place that really existed, or maybe you might have lived in. For a year, I did. Our small team of builders and merchants did a terrific job, and can feel very proud.