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The National Media Museum in Bradford has started work on the world's first gallery to explore the social, technological and cultural impact of the internet and the web. Set to open on 30 March 2012 the gallery will be the first in the world to link the history of the internet with its impact on how we live our lives.

The gallery will bring together historically significant content, multimedia displays, and a programme of special exhibitions exploring contemporary trends and issues related to how the internet and the web are changing society.

The £2 million project will explore various themes, including the origins of the internet, global communications, issues of online identity and the nature of digital communities and businesses.

Life Online will be made up of two spaces in the Museum. The permanent gallery on the ground floor will reflect and interact with the story of the internet and the web, from the very first email, to the rise of home computing and the non-stop evolution of social and technological communication. It will also explore the future of the internet.

The exhibition space will showcase experimental temporary exhibitions dedicated to exploring the ever-changing relationship between society and the internet. The first Life Online exhibition, called [open source], will focus on the open source online culture of sharing and collaboration, whilst examining current threats to net neutrality which could signify the end of online culture as we know it.

Visitors will be able to actively participate with the Life Online gallery, exhibition space and online presence - through a series of interactive elements. This will enable Life Online to be powered by the ideas, thoughts and opinions of both physical and virtual visitors. This model of engagement will ultimately create an invaluable public archive of society's relationship with the internet and the web in the 21st century.

An additional purpose-built learning space will house an exciting programme of workshops and events investigating the processes of producing online content and issues surrounding our relationships with the web as we explore our online world.

Tom Woolley, curator of new media at the National Media Museum said: "We have been planning for this gallery for a long time and it is fantastic to see the building work commence for our new permanent gallery Life Online. Although other galleries tell the story of the internet, no other links that ever-evolving history with the impact the internet has on our lives and we are very excited to house the world’s first gallery of its kind here in Bradford. There are many exciting milestones ahead as we build towards the gallery opening in March 2012 and we look forward to sharing the finished gallery with visitors."

The content of the gallery has been informed by a variety of web experts and pioneers including Ben Hammersley, the UK Prime Minister’s Ambassador to TechCity and editor at large of Wired Magazine; representatives from Google and Microsoft; Freeserve co-founders Rob Wilmot and Ajaz Ahmed and Helen Milner, the managing director of UK Online Centres. A senior member of the Virgin Media broadband team is the most recent addition to the gallery advisory panel. A variety of Universities have also advised including Oxford, Bradford, Nottingham Trent, Southampton, Brunel, Manchester Metropolitan and Lancaster.

Life Online is funded by the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. The project also has a number of corporate supporters such as Virgin Media; Brass, one of the UK’s foremost creative and digital marketing agencies; and by leading environment, brand and interaction agency Start JudgeGill who are assisting with the creation of the Life Online Exhibition space.

Image: Joe Brook, Life Online Gallery Development Manager holding a scale model of the National Media Museum foyer and Life Online gallery

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