The BBC today launches a new multimedia project, based on an earlier and much neglected multimedia project. Domesday Reloaded reopens to the public the material that was gathered 25 years ago for the BBC Domesday project. In 1986, the BBC asked the public to submit details about their local area to help compile a digital snapshot of the country. Over a million people, mainly school children, took part in the groundbreaking initiative surveying over 108,000 square km of the UK and submitting more than 147,819 pages articles and 23,225 photos. All the data – pictures, maps, video, surveys, statistics, essays and personal testimonies – were digitally etched into the two laser discs.
The historian and TV presenter Michael Wood was involved in the original project, and as he told me in an interview earlier this week, pre-Internet the project was ahead of its time and the data quickly became inaccessible to most as the technology it was based on became obselete. You can listen to an excerpt of my interview with Michael here, and there will be more from him on our next BBC History Magazine podcast, live at the end of May.
The Domesday Reloaded Project finally returns this wealth of material to the public eye, as searchable and usable as you’d expect from a major website in 2011. It’s the sort of site that could quickly become addictive.
For instance, I was a schoolboy in 1986, and I was struck by this quote from a schoolchild living somewhere in the area where I was growing up (I don’t think it was me) about their hopes and fears for the future.
“My fear for the future is that they may be a nuclear war. I want to see the world settle down to some serious arms control talks.
I hope that before long we will be building a space station on the Moon so that there will be a chance of surviving a third world war.
I hope that before much longer all cars will be electrically powered so that our streets will no longer be full of fumes.”
Visit the Domesday Reloaded Project here.
Michael Wood will be presenting a Radio 4 Archive on 4 programme about Domesday Reloaded this Saturday (14 May) at 8pm.