Open house at Stanford’s Virtual Archives in Second Life

Posted on behalf of Mattie Taormina at Standford–if you’re active in Second Life, I hope you’ll stop in. It sounds like a very interesting place!

Have you heard about virtual worlds? Ever wonder what how they might be used in the world of archives and special collections?

Come find out at Stanford University’s Special Collections and University Archives’ virtual ‘Open House’ in the virtual world Second Life on Friday, July 31st from 9:00 to 11:00a.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during these hours for an overview of our new Virtual Archives which allows scholars to discover and use our primary resources in a virtual environment.

For the first time scholars and the casual passersby can walk Stanford’s closed stacks and browse some of our manuscript collections: a practice not offered in real life. Stanford’s Virtual Archive is a very small but growing subset of our deep storage facility replicated in Second Life. Patrons can open virtual Hollinger boxes and a sampling of scanned documents from the real life box will appear along with a link to that collection’s online finding aid. They can then post their reference questions on the bulletin board which sends email to our Special Collections staff. Stanford’s Virtual Archive provides access to patrons around the world without endangering the collection.

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world where more than 15 million users have created avatars–or online personas–enabling them to explore SL and interact with others from in real time. Reference in SL occurs through in-world text and voice chat as well as our reference bulletin board.

Please join us at our Open House to learn more at the following SLURL address (this is the Second Life location for the Stanford University Special Collections’ Virtual Archive): This address launches the Second Life application from your web browser. For those not already in SL, joining is free at and we will be happy to help get you acclimated in-world. Look for Sicilia Tiratzo and my colleague in SL, Mollie Mavendorf. We will be on hand to demonstrate the archives site and answer your questions. We look forward to seeing you ‘in world’ on July 31st.

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9 thoughts on “Open house at Stanford’s Virtual Archives in Second Life”

  1. interesting idea..would think that the choice of second life as platform might not be serious enough for the archives of Stanford

  2. If Second Life is “serious” or not depends on the way in which it is used.
    While experimenting myself, I have met various educators and other cultural heritage professionals who use it as a platform for experimenting in virtual worlds. So I think that may very well be a sufficient place to try out 3D worlds.

  3. Second Life offers new ways of investigating historical materials – see my earlier comment and link.

    Try it yourself and make up your own mind. If you can get past any negative stereotypes, I beleive you will find that it is indeed capable of being a serious tool.

  4. Thanks for the link Viajero re the Rumsey site which is stellar in Second Life. Stanford’s virtual archives is not on that level to be sure, but it is our experiment into presenting our resources in this new format. It is a “test site” for us and I’m not sure what scholarly outputs we will produce but we won’t know ’til we try it I guess.

  5. I went by and was very impressed. I was not able to stay long, I was on my lunch hour and, having never been to SL I had to set up an account and avatar and spent some of my time trying to navigate. I can think of several situations which would lend themselves to SL or some similar, virtual interactive tool.

    Example: My nephew uses some “movie” program that is similar to a video game to produce movies. He does research, usually from published sources but at 13 or 14 he is just learning about primary material, and puts together his own story based upon the research as a “documentary.” Someone like this might find a virtual archive an interesting starting point to access a collection.

    I can think of other ways that such things can be used. Of course, it never hurts for us to at least be familiar with such technology. If it is part of human interaction or in anyway relates to organic human activity, it might produce records that we will one day have to make decisions about based on our ability to appraise and place in proper context, i.e. based on our understanding of the structures that created the records. Maybe.

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