Who am I, who were you?
Who am I, who were you?
How can you bring old archived documents back to life? We have been developing an exciting interactive quest for the National Archive together with exhibition designers Platform through a specially developed story archive. You will experience how the time, the place and the circumstances in which you were born will influence the opportunities and choices you have or don’t have in the ‘Who am I, who were you?’ exhibition.
Whilst visitors discover all about the life of one of the 17 well-known and extraordinary historical people from the presentation, it will become very clear that equal treatment and equal rights certainly weren’t something which could be taken for granted. The journey of discovery through the past has been especially designed for primary and secondary school classes, whilst we also offer a separate variant for regular museum visitors. How does it work? This interactive exhibition in the National Archive offers four different programmes which schools can follow with their students: Right and wrong in the Second World War, Hearth and Home, Trade and Slavery and Fight for your Rights. Historical figures are linked to each theme. After an introduction and a group game about the chosen theme, the children and young people will go off in 5 groups of 3, armed with a tablet and 2 torches, ready to explore the specially designed dark archive cave. Each group has to unravel the life of one of the special characters within half an hour. The tablet will allow them to chat with their character, during which they will learn all about what they had to go through and they can take this opportunity to ask appropriate questions. The characters will also set them a number of tasks. They need to look for archived documents in various different places within the area, which will reveal secrets about their character. The archived documents are the important puzzles they need to solve in order to progress in the game. You will therefore see some very dedicated students working with the old documents. The answers they’ll find in the archived records will simultaneously also confront them with some special, happy and painful moments from their character’s life. The children are constantly challenged to empathise with their character’s life throughout the entire quest and to carefully think about what they would do if they were to find themselves in the same situation. Dark Old documents need to be kept in the dark. This will allow for them to be preserved for a much longer period of time. We have made smart use of this fact. We will very subtly guide the groups through the space with help from interactive lighting, or they actually do this themselves. Each group follows its own colour and as this is controlled by the software in the tablet and by what the children are doing during the game, the light will constantly change at the right moment and will take them along to new places in the quest. Each group will also be given two torches, in addition to a tablet. They can use this to take a better look at the objects they find. The dark archive, the different light colours and the torches have certainly turned this into an exciting quest. It will also help the children to focus. Reflection What would you do if you were given away as a child and ended up growing up in a distant country? And what about if you wanted to study, but you weren’t allowed because you’re a woman? Do you actually have any choices available to you if you are born into slavery? The quest explicitly challenges children to empathise with other people’s lives and to subsequently form their own opinion. They don’t need to all agree, but are actually encouraged to form their own opinions each time. All the groups will gather together at the end at a large projection screen displaying all the stories found and will compare the different characters with one of the National Archive’s museum teachers. They will talk to each other about the different opportunities the different characters would have had and the different choices they ended up making. And what would they have done themselves?