Friday, October 28, 2011

Blueprints Assist in Creating Virtual World

Our patrons and partners are constantly coming up with innovative ways to utilize architectural drawings in our collections. We recently provided Ball Brothers' factory and office blueprints from the Kibele and Garrard Architectural Records Collection to Ball State University's Center for Middletown Studies and Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA), who used them to map a virtual world in Blue Mars.

According to James Connolly, director of the Center for Middletown Studies and professor of history, "the key that unlocked the whole reconstruction came from Cuno Kibele's original drawings for the main offices of the Ball Brothers plant, which are held in BSU's Drawings and Documents Archive. While we had an array of source materials, including plant maps and photographs, only the Kibele blueprints had precise scale measurements. The designers used them, along with photos, to reconstruct that building. From there, they used the digital model of the office building as the point of comparison to determine the height, length, and width of Factory No. 1 and its constituent parts, along with the scale of the other structures that are part of the virtual plant."

More information about the project from IDIA:

The Virtual Middletown Living Museum Project, which brings to life aspects of the 1929 and 1937 Lynd Study of Middletown America, is now live in the virtual world of Blue Mars. The project, which simulates the Ball Glass factory, incorporates various modes of learning and interaction while maintaining an immersive experience. Life and conditions in the factory were one of the key elements of the Middletown Studies by Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd in their landmark studies Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937). These in-depth accounts of life in Muncie, Indiana, became classic sociological studies and established the community as a barometer of social trends in the United States. In the years since, scholars in a variety of fields have returned to Muncie to follow up on the Lynds’ work, making this small
city among the most studied communities in the nation.

This simulation of industrial life, built as a prototype for a much larger project dealing with all aspects of the Lynd Study, has aimed to create a virtual living museum experience expanding the opportunities for both learning and interpretation. The approach to interactive design embeds learning and navigation experiences subtly into the project to maintain the sense of immersion. IDIA has prototyped several techniques to accomplish this - including interactive objects that allow for close up inspection, objects that when clicked bring up web-based content, and annotated plans or photographs used in the interpretation.

Also, non-player character factory workers, a live interactive avatar of Frank C. Ball who greets visitors and introduces them to the factory, video and audio files of factory experts, and archival films - all assist in bringing the project to life. IDIA designed an in-world interactive Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that provides deeper investigation and navigation throughout the factory as well as a supporting webpage with complete documentation on all resources used in this interpretation. Project partners include the Center for Middletown Studies and University Libraries. This project was funded by the Emerging Media Initiative at Ball State University.

Video walkthrough here: download the Blue Mars client, create an account and tour Virtual Middletown, please visit:

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