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National Media Museum to explore how the web changed the world

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National Media Museum exhibition
The National Media Museum has announced plans to create a new exhibition telling the story of the technological, social and cultural impact of the World Wide Web.

Work will soon begin at the museum in Bradford on the world-first gallery exploring the ways in which internet access has changed how we live our lives.

Set to open in March this year, the exhibition will bring together "historically significant content" and multimedia displays in a programme of special exhibitions looking at trends and issues around the history of the internet.

The £2 million project will explore various key issues, such as the origin of global communications, online piracy and file-sharing, the power of search engines and questions over online identity and privacy in the era of social networks such as Facebook.

Funded by the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, the Life Online gallery and exhibition will take up two spaces in the museum.

The permanent gallery on the ground floor will reflect the story of the internet and the web - ranging from the birth of mainframe computing and the Arpanet packet-switching network in the late 1960s, to the inception of personal computing in the 1980s, and beyond.

Various internet pioneers will feature in the gallery, including World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee and American 'father of the internet' Vint Cerf, along with "iconic web moments", such as famous memes, viral hits and examples of citizen journalism.

Fittingly, Life Online will also be powered by interactivity, as users will be able to engage and contribute to a public archive on society's relationship with the web.

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."

Various technology industry stakeholders have contributed to the exhibition, including Google, Microsoft, Virgin Media, and Freeserve, along with Wired magazine, TechCity and a number of UK universities.

Separately, US search giant Google has provided funding to the UK Science Museum for two major exhibitions celebrating the history of computing and communications technology.

In June, the museum will host a special exhibition honouring the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, the genius in fields including code-breaking, computing, mathematics, artificial intelligence and biology.

A second exhibition will be a permanent addition to the Science Museum, opening in Summer 2014 and exploring the history of information and communication technologies over the last 200 years.

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