TheStar Trek The Experience Virtual Tour and Slideshow Database, produced by DigitalProperties.ca, is a self-described "visual time-capsule" and "immersive tribute" to Star Trek: The Experience, formerly at the Las Vegas Hilton. Photographed three weeks before The Experience closed its doors in September 2008, this virtual tour allows visitors to explore 360-degree captures of the attraction's environments, including its rides, exhibits, promenade, and staff rooms. The high quality images are combined with surviving audio recordings of the tours and are curated using Adobe Flash Panorama Player, allowing limited mobility through a virtual recreation of the former media attraction.
While "wandering" through these virtual rooms provides the opportunity to engage with a space that no longer exists in the physical realm, the fragments assembled in this tour seem incomplete. It is an experience that is, in some ways, akin to wandering through a haunted house where ghosts of the past still echo through its halls. Other fragments found online that are not included in the Tour can provide additional context. One of the most comprehensive resources is a documentary produced by a former cast member, featuring filmed segments from throughout the Experience's life and death, as well as interviews with its former cast and crew (the Facebook page includes photographs and a forum for sharing memories). Even the clip accompanying this post - an advanced preview of the Tour's content - contains materials not currently included in its virtual exhibition spaces (video footage of the attraction and some of its media). While these materials provide additional context, they lack the main feature of the Tour - its interactivity and the chance for visitors to "move" through this now closed (and sadly demolished) media experience. Due to its strengths and weaknesses, the Tour serves as both a tribute to what once was and a reminder of what has been lost and will never be recovered.
This week of IMR explores the theme of media fragments and virtual museums. Digital media and the internet have encouraged curators, archivists, and artists to rethink traditional perceptions of the exhibit space and digital archive in an environment where geographical limitations are no longer a restriction. Some online content, like this example, continue to exist long after the physical is lost. One day these too will be "demolished" when the servers housing the content are finally deactivated. The limitations of life and the permanence death affect both the digital and the physical. How do we contextualize what has been left behind?
Acts and Artifacts
As a historian, my personal techno-utopian fantasy has always been that 3-D digital preservation would be the great leap forward, preserving experiences rather than just artifacts. But your notion that digital preservation is a second life - and a pale shadow at that - is a reminder that an experience, in interactive media, is itself an artifact.
I am thinking of Werner Herzog's film "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." Though it seems Herzog's intent, with the use of 3-D cameras, was to preserve the perpetually endangered historical cave, what he actually preserved was his own experiencing of the mystery of the cave: his vantage point, his questions, etc. And, much like your point about "Star Trek: The Experience," Herzog's film also requires preservation and continued distribution.
Perhaps we must contextualize interactive media - even historical oriented ones - as 'acts' rather than 'archives.' Not the preservation of the thing itself, but one experience of that thing? Much like constructing a documentary to pretend that the filmmaker is not present, perhaps the utopian fantasy of interactivity (complete without absent author) is encouraging us to believe that digital archives are less limited and individual than they truly are?
Fascinating post! It’s amazing that this tour survives via these virtual fragments and it’s interesting to think about what they accomplish in terms of fan’s emotional capital. For those who once visited the exhibit, their memories are reconstructed through them, while those who never visited, they formulate ideas of what it must have been like; a desire for something lost to history. And while the interactivity is lost in terms of exploring the actual place of the original tour, these virtual memories (perhaps this is what they become for everyone) are shared amongst the fans as another form of interaction. Several layers of things to think about!
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