The preservation of knowledge about virtual worlds, including content and events, has become an area of investigation of media research and archiving departments at universities. Library science and museum collections divisions at several schools in the U.S. have been using virtual worlds for some time to facilitate student interaction and for distance learning applications. Museum collections staff at several museums are experimenting with virtual worlds as a means of presentation and interaction with digital versions of artifacts.
At a recent workshop that I participated in at Stanford University given by the Media-X group, entitled “Preserving Knowledge in Virtual Worlds”, I learned that the Stanford Humanties Lab with funding support from the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) has worked with the Internet Archive to create a new Virtual Worlds Video Archive “dedicated to the academic investigation and historical preservation of documentation of virtual worlds.” The project is also supported by groups at the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland, and Rochester Institute of Technology.
This is a great step towards archiving virtual worlds so that the growing practice of using them for both fun and serious work is preserved for historical record and future study. While the collection is focused on moving images that capture the use of and important events in virtual worlds, it provides a basis for potential future expansion that might include virtual worlds platform software and related documents and images. Having the collection as a hub within the IA that people can contribute to and share will help broaden the accessibility of these videos for research and study. The collection features some interesting moments in virtual worlds history including OnLive Traveller, STARBRIGHT World, AlphaWorld, Oz, Habitat (!), Maze War, Club Caribe, early SL, and video of the final moments of EA-Land, Check out over twelve years of virtual worlds videos from many different companies and research institutions in this growing collection.