Students put world on a disk


TODAY a unique Irish CD Rom goes on show at the G7 conference in South Africa. The multi media disk holds a wealth of heritage material collected by students in several countries and held at Bunratty Folk Park in Co Clare under the huge "Story" project. Collection is to continue (until the year 2001 and during this time all the material will be (digitised and placed on a series of commercial CDROMs and the Internet.

Co ordinated by Marial Hannon, the Story project is run by Shannon Heritage and Banquets, a subsidiary of Shannon Development. It is supported by Bord na Gaeilge, the NCCA and Telecom Eireann. It is also receiving technical assistance under the EU Encata project, a Shannon Development led project aimed at increasing the use of telematics.

During this first year of the project, 2,000 students (mostly in Transition Year) spent time at Bunratty learning how to research and present their projects. They then worked for several months in their home areas, gathering memories from grandparents and others and producing written and visual records. Each participant also filled a large box file with relevant objects.

Judging from the projects on display at the official opening by the President, Mary Robinson, on Thursday, the collection should eventually prove valuable to historians, writers and other researchers for its insight into the everyday and not so everyday lives of ordinary people.

At the G7 (group of seven leading industrial nations) meeting, the project is being shown in the EU pavilion. "We were invited because the G7 is focusing on ink formation technology and human culture, and Story is a pan cultural, global programme," said Shannon Development's chief executive, Paul Sheane.

For John King, manager of corporate services at Shannon Development and chairman of the Encata board, involvement in the project is a way of spreading awareness of telematics to a wide audience. "This is a unique way (of involving people in telematics," he said. "The CDRom used at the opening and in South Africa is a short taster, and we anticipate the first full CD Rom will be available in September.

"After that, there could be a series of CD Roms, in different language versions - these will all be commercially available, and we hope this will also mean more employment in the Shannon Region and Ireland in digitising the material and putting it on CD Rom and the Internet."

The current CD Rom was developed for Shannon Heritage by the award winning Dublin company, Martello Multimedia. "We have made it interactive and entertaining, so that those students who have not contributed material can also enjoy it," said Martello's managing director, Mark Leslie.

It is planned that future CDRoms will carry a means of connecting to a constantly updated Internet site. At time of writing, information is about to be made available on: