background image
tion.The approach taken by the project could be equally well applied to many other cul-
tural heritage domains.
The development of VRoma began in 1997 when the National Endowment for
the Humanities
(NEH)
295
granted Miami University $190,000 (
154,000) for a
three year period under their Teaching with Technology scheme. Rhodes College in
Memphis provided the first server for the VRoma project, and the Associated Colleges
of the South
provide and house the current VRoma server at the ACS Technology
Center at Southwestern University in Georgetown,Texas. During the grant period
(1997-1999), the project had five directors representing different institutions: Michael
Arnush, (Skidmore College), Suzanne Bonefas (Associated Colleges of the South),
Barbara McManus (The College of New Rochelle), Kenneth Morrell (Rhodes
College
), and Stephen Nimis (Miami University).The NEH funding was used to run
three national workshops for pre-college and college Classics teachers, involving techno-
logical training, creation of on-line resources, and discussion of pedagogical uses of the
materials. Ranging from seven to ten days each, the workshops were designed to create a
small community of scholars and teachers and to share technical expertise in order to
give the project its initial motivation. All workshops were held in academic computer
labs with Internet access, and the primary technological skills taught involved MOO
skills,Web authoring, and digital image processing. Key to creating the virtual communi-
ty itself were face-to-face meetings.
The planning team's decision to create a virtual community using a MOO was
prompted by the fact that despite the many excellent classical resources available on the
Web the team felt that there was very little understanding among college and pre-college
teachers about how to use these resources effectively.The team felt that a `virtual field
trip' might provide students of Latin with an experience of context in which the language
was used that would improve their learning and their contextual knowledge.This com-
munity or `critical mass of learners' would greatly benefit more isolated Latin students
(e.g. those in small programmes).The planning team concluded that the spatial metaphor
on which MOOs are based was ideal for their purposes and suggested the concept of a
virtual re-creation of ancient
Rome.
After considering the various
options available, it was decided that
the BioGate MOO core
296
, a system
developed for BioMOO, a virtual
community of biologists (subse-
quently closed in 2002) with the
Cup o' Mud java interface
297
was the
most appropriate technology for
VRoma purposes. A MOO is a
database (stored as a very large
ASCII text file) which is read into
memory when the MOO server is started. Every MOO object (users, rooms, exits, bots,
Collaborative Mechanisms
and Technologies
161
VRoma
Thermopolium screenshot
295 http://www.neh.fed.us
296 http://bioinformatics.weizmann.ac.il/BioMOO/BioGate/
297 http://www.du.org/java/CupOmud/
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