It is with considerable sadness that we report the death of Iona Opie (née Archibald) on 23 October 2017, aged 94. Her ground-breaking work on children’s folklore, especially play and games, undertaken together with her husband Peter, has been inspirational to our own research. In particular, the Opies’ archival collection, which Iona donated to the British Library, Bodleian Libraries and Folklore Society Archives, is central to our current project, Playing the Archive, and its predecessor, Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age.
We are grateful to have had her support for this work, and glad to have the privilege, like many scholars around the world, to build on her legacy.
The team is beginning work on the immersive worlds component of the project. The VR and advanced visualisation specialists at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London, Valerio Signorelli and Andy Hudson-Smith, are testing out ideas for VR and AR (augmented reality) worlds. Working with the materials in the Opie Collection, they will help to bring the games and songs of the past to life. In the picture above we are testing a prototype for an augmented reality avatar.
Playing the Archive: Content Creation and Consumption in the Digital Economy is an ambitious programme of research and cultural production, exploring the nature of play by bringing together archives, spaces and technologies of play, along with people who play, both old and young. It runs from September 2017 to August 2019.
Funded by the EPSRC through the Content Creation and Consumption in the Digital Economy call, the project will digitise and catalogue substantial sections of the Opie manuscript archive at the Bodleian Libraries, creating a new catalogue designed and hosted by the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield; design a virtual reality play environment based on the archive and install it at the V&A Museum of Childhood, London, and the Weston Park Museum, Sheffield; and build experimental ‘smart’ playgrounds in London and Sheffield.
The catalogue for the first series of the Opie Archive is now available online. This series of documents includes documentation relating to the Opies’ book The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959), including materials from their teacher-correspondents, as well as a wealth of material relating to children’s games and rhymes. Another set of documents includes entries to the Camberwell Public Libraries Essay Competition, showing how children understood the world around them and imagined the future.
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Sarah Thiel has written a dedicated blog post on the Bodleian Libraries blog about the newly-catalogued collection.
One of the central strands of Playing the Archive is to digitalise the Opie Collection and create new ways for users to interact with it. The archive is housed at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford. These two posts from the libraries’ blog discuss the origins of the archive, the challenges of cataloguing its material, and the personal papers of Peter Opie.
(Photo courtesy of Bodleian Library)
Nursery rhymes, childhood folklore, and play: The archive of Iona and Peter Opie
Eton College, a journey to India, and wartime Britain: Personal stories from the Opie Archive