The Block2block: New Milton in Minecraft project has created an innovative digital museum encompassing aspects of local social and oral history from World War II to the present day.
The project ran from April to July 2018. A range of youth, media, creative arts and heritage partners supported and trained groups of young people from in and around New Milton. The young people took the lead in creating a contemporary collection, which explores the past and present day history of their local area.
Working with Hampshire Cultural Trust, the young people researched and reflected on the history of New Milton through engaging with the trust’s social history collections, as well as working with a local historian to uncover personal stories and memories from the town's people. To access New Milton in Minecraft via the Minecraft server, ensure you have the PC version of Minecraft, then enter address 188.8.131.52:25565 into the add server options on multiplayer. If you are unsure of how to do this, follow this user guide.
Creating a digital version of New Milton
Using Ordnance Survey maps, the town was digitised in Minecraft by BlockBuilders, based in Brighton. A group of 15 young digital leaders from Arnewood Secondary School spent 12 weeks sculpting the shop buildings, Rec, skate park and station to resemble the New Milton originals during their after-school Minecraft workshop sessions. The young people were so engaged with the project that they spent their evenings, weekends and holidays working on recreating buildings and areas of the town.
Contemporary media were created by groups of young people from across New Milton and added into the Minecraft map in the form of original short films, interviews, drama, images, songs and music, all inspired by stories from local history such as the bombings in WWII, Waverley Cinema and the Brickworks.
Collecting oral histories
Older residents of New Milton, the Mayor and the Chair of Governors from Arnewood School were interviewed for their stories of growing up in the town, their childhood during WWII, watching the bombs drop, life at school and their memories of the changing face of the town. These recorded stories became the inspiration for the original songs and films created by the young people.
Music and songs
A group of young musicians from the Coda Music Centre composed and recorded a series of songs and original music for the Minecraft map. Other songs and raps were composed by groups of young carers who were inspired by some of the oral history stories that came out of the research.
A young messenger boy called Archie who was killed in a WWII bombing of New Milton became a focus of inspiration. He is portrayed in three short films created by Arnewood School students as an informative time traveller who shows young people what life was like in New Milton past.
Film and music workshops during the half term holiday focused on recording the vibrant activity around the skate park in New Milton’s recreation ground. Shot by young people using a mix of professional and Go-Pro cameras and smart phones, the skate park film captures the energy and community spirit of the young boarders and scooter riders. An original song and music were created by the young people to accompany the film and the song reflects some of the stories and emotions of young people using the skate park. This contemporary addition to the museum recognises that what is current today becomes the history of tomorrow.
You can see all the films that were created during the project here.
Telling stories through drama
Stories from the past inspired the Forest Arts Epic drama group, which includes young people with additional needs. They worked with Blue Apple Theatre Company to devise a performance piece for the celebration day and filmed for the Minecraft museum.
The final Minecraft site was launched at a celebration day at Forest Arts Centre in New Milton on Saturday 14 July 2018. It was accompanied by an interactive exhibition designed and created by the young people, live music performances, film screenings and the performance of the original drama piece by the Epic drama group. The exhibition explored some of the local history stories and issues facing young people today.
The project attracted interest from further afield. Microsoft, the owners of Minecraft, invited Arnewood School’s young digital leaders to the Microsoft UK Headquarters in Reading to present their project and take part in a practical Minecraft training session. BBC South filmed their visit for a feature report on the project.
Following the visit, Julia Bishop, UK Device Marketing Lead at Microsoft, commented: ‘Please share with the school how energised the Arnewood School visit made everyone in Microsoft feel, as we experienced the excitement of the students visiting our offices. It was a delight to be part of their visit, their enthusiasm to be at Microsoft was infectious and we were incredibly impressed with their ability to articulate their project and their Minecraft programming prowess. It was fascinating to hear how they have combined local history and film making into Minecraft and how this project has inspired many of them to think of a career in technology.’
A lasting impact
The aim of the project is to create a lasting legacy that will be easily accessed and updated over time.
Nigel Pressnell, Head Teacher at The Arnewood School, said, ‘This project is a wonderful fusion of technology, history, creativity and teamwork.
‘I am delighted that students are working together on such an important community project and I am grateful to partners at Microsoft and Forest Arts for working alongside our children and Miss Milligan to deliver such an interesting challenge.
‘The students’ energy and enthusiasm are a real credit to the school and I am fascinated to see how their learning has been inspired through programming and gaming architecture.’
Darren, Year 9 student at The Arnewood School, said: ‘Our trip to Microsoft was a great experience and something I will always remember. The best part was being able to present our Minecraft map of New Milton to the Microsoft team. They were amazed by our hard work and commitment.’
Young carer Connor enjoyed participating in the song, writing: ‘I liked making the songs and singing.’
By giving young people the opportunity to work alongside heritage experts, IT and arts professionals and working across the generations, the Block2block: New Milton in Minecraft project aimed to develop skills, raise aspirations and confidence.
Many young people were initially attracted to the project because of the Minecraft or music elements, but quickly became engaged with and inspired by the local history stories they heard from older generations. The older generation really appreciated recording their memories for future generations.
All those who took part:
This digital museum project received outstanding contributions from many people including:
- 15 young digital leaders from Arnewood School
- Young carers
- Young musicians
- EPIC drama group
- Users of the New Milton skate park
- Young people attending creative workshops
- Older residents who gave their time to be interviewed for their memories
The facilitators included:
- Film maker Rob Luckins
- Paul Gonella from Strong Island Media
- Coda Music Trust
- Blue Apple Theatre Company
- Artist Caroline Rackham
The project received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was managed by Hampshire Cultural Trust, which operates Forest Arts Centre, New Milton.
Jackie Goddard, Community Programme Co-ordinator
Helen Farquharson, Project Manager