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29 Mar 2012

A new gallery exploring the history of the internet is to open at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Life Online - or LOL for short - will aim to charter the social, technological and cultural impact of the web.

It features contributions from some of the web's pioneers such as Tim Berners Lee and Vint Cerf.

The gallery's curator told the BBC it was important for people to explore the "genesis" of the internet.

"It's a massive part of our lives," said Tom Woolley, the museum's curator of new media.

"It's important to know where that story has come from. The rise of the internet has just been momentous. The way we watch film, TV, listen to music is all wrapped up in the web."

The project, which cost £2 million raised from commercial sponsors, will look at the origins of the internet, global communications, issues of online identity and the nature of digital communities and businesses.
Open source

The free exhibition opens to the public fully on Friday and is divided into two sections. The first will be the gallery's permanent fixture, which showcases the history and backstory of the internet.

The other section will change on a yearly basis, with artists commissioned to present experimental themes - beginning with an exhibition looking at how the open source movement has shaped the internet.

In preparation for the exhibition's launch, Mr Woolley told the BBC it was particularly difficult to cut through the myths that often surround the conception of the web.

"We're lucky that the early pioneers are still alive and still vocal in explaining what they did," he said.

The exhibition also charts some of the darker moments of the internet's history, such as the dotcom bubble of the late nineties.

"We have a game where you can try and become a dotcom billionaire - choosing which companies to invest in, and seeing what happens after the dotcom bust," Mr Woolley explained.

Expertise on hand includes key figures from companies such as Microsoft and Google, as well as insight from media personalities - including the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

The exhibition is the first permanent fixture showing off the history of the internet in the UK.

Others, like the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, guides visitors through the country's close ties with computer innovation.


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