Museum adapts to computer age

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THE British Museum, one of the country's most venerable and unchanging institutions, is to introduce computer technology to its permanent galleries for the first time in its 240-year history. The concession to technology is a watershed for the museum, which has always been at pains to retain its classical - some would say old-fashioned - display style to remain in keeping with its 1753 Greek Revival building.

The inspiration for the foray into the 20th century comes from the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities as part of its plan to revamp two galleries about the Parthenon Frieze - fragments of which, brought to England by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, make up the celebrated Marbles. The department will commission a computer-simulated reconstruction of how the Friezewould have looked when on the walls of the Parthenon.

The simulation will allow visitors to view it with its original blue background and to see how it would have looked from the ground, at eye level, and while "flying" along beside it.

The video will also contrast a present-day view of the Parthenon with a reconstruction of how it would have looked when it was built in the 5th century BC. Visitors will be able to "move" around the monument and see how it would have appeared when originally painted, before its reds, yellows, blues and golds were lost.

The simulation is also expected to show how the pediments of the Parthenon would have looked when filled with the sculptures. The surviving fragments will be on display next door in the Duveen Gallery.

Ian Jenkins, the assistant keeper in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, said: "We are not fusty and dusty and anti-technology, although others may see us like that."

Dr Robert Anderson, director of the British Museum, said he intended to use the technology sparingly. "We don't want to intrude on the original material we have in the museum," he said. "But it is a natural progression."