It’s been an exciting few days for us here at Discover eLearning. Alice in Typhoidland, one of the projects we’ve been involved with recently, has been launched by the University of Oxford.
Alice in Typhoidland is an exhibition co-hosted by the Bodleian’s Weston Library and the History of Science Museum. It explores the history of typhoid in Oxford – a bacterial infection that blighted the population until the 1800s when new research ensured that it became a preventable disease.
The curators of the exhibition, Dr Samantha Vanderslott and Dr Claas Kirchhelle, initially wanted to explore the history of sanitation in Oxford and show how typhoid continues to affect people worldwide, defying its reputation as a ‘disease of the past’.
However, they discovered that the daughter of Henry Liddell, one of the main reformers of sanitation in Oxford, was the inspiration for the title character of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The real-life Alice would have been living in Oxford at the time, experiencing a world affected by typhoid.
The theme developed from there, with the exhibition successfully launching on the 11th January.
Alice in Typhoidland is intended to be as accessible to as many people as possible, and is built around several talks, games, animations and interactive exhibits. This is where we came in.
Discover eLearning were drafted in to create the interactive elements. Amongst the exhibits we designed were touch-screen interactive games available to play in the Weston Library section of the exhibit.
At the time of writing they’re currently running in the main hallway on big display cabinets, along with an interactive map that details the spread of typhoid and the measures taken to control it over the space of 30 years between 1872 and 1901. Key events are highlighted while the animation takes you through the years.
The games we designed include the Mad Hatter Pipe Challenge, a puzzle game challenging visitors to fix the Mad Hatter’s plumbing so he can host a sanitary tea party and prevent his guests contracting typhoid.
The Dean Liddell River Challenge sees players attempt to help Alice’s father improve Oxford’s drinking water by placing drinking fountains and cesspools in strategic places around the city – being very careful not to cross-contaminate!
Finally, we were also tasked with building the Alice in Typhoidland website, currently available to visit at https://typhoidland.org.
We took the chance to visit Oxford to see the exhibition for ourselves, having never actually seen our work featured in a physical exhibition before. Previously, all our work has been exclusively available online, so this was a long-standing ambition of ours realised and something I believe we can be truly proud of.
Furthermore, it was an excellent opportunity to work with an institution as well-established and reputable as Oxford Martin School.
From a visitor’s point of view, the activity day itself was a lot of fun. We can gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing members of the general public playing the games, interacting with the exhibit and seeing them enjoy the experience.
You’d be surprised how tempting it was to step in and help people, so to avoid a riot on the streets of Oxford due to a breakout of typhoid! However, rest assured we did manage to control that instinct and let people solve the games themselves either through skill or through trial and error.
Alice in Typhoidland is currently running at the Weston Library until 22nd March and the History of Science Museum for the foreseeable future. It will move to the Museum of Oxford in Winter, and go on tour to the CDC Museum in Atlanta, USA in August.
See https://typhoidland.org/physical-exhibition for opening hours.