Playing the Archive

Funded by the EPSRC through the Content Creation and Consumption in the Digital Economy call, the project addresses the ephemerality of practices and memories encoded in play.

The project will digitise and catalogue substantial sections of the Opie manuscript archive at the Bodleian Libraries, creating a new catalogue to be designed and hosted by the Digital Humanities Institute; design a virtual reality play environment based on the archive to be installed at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London and the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield; and build experimental ‘smart’ playgrounds in London and Sheffield. opie

In doing so, Playing the Archive will promote empathy across generations by allowing children to play games that their forebears described to the Opies in the 1950s and 60s, while simultaneously allowing members of that generation to play today’s games, in an intergenerational exchange of cultural memory and play. By digitising a major part of the Opie Collection, creating detailed metadata about its content, and making it publicly accessible online, the project will make the archive accessible both to researchers and to those individuals, now in their seventies, who contributed to it. And through the building of playgrounds that respond to the cultural needs of children in inner-city, multi-ethnic communities, the project will enable play to unite groups across language communities, and social divides.

Duration: 2017 – 2019


Project Team

  • Prof. Andrew Burn (Principal Investigator – UCL)
  • Dr John Potter (Co-Investigator – UCL)
  • Prof. Jackie Marsh (Co-Investigator – University of Sheffield)
  • Prof. Andrew Hudson-Smith (Co-Investigator – UCL)
  • Dr Helen Woolley (Co-Investigator – University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Julia Bishop (Co-Investigator – University of Sheffield)
  • Duncan Hay (Co-Investigator – UCL)
  • Kate Cowan (Research Associate – UCL)
  • Dr Valerio Signorelli (Research Associate – UCL)
  • Simon Huxtable (Project Manager – UCL)
  • Jamie Mclaughlin (Developer – The Digital Humanities Institute)
  • Ryan Bloor (Developer – The Digital Humanities Institute)