Former home of Robert Burns brought to virtual life on Minecraft

The former home of Scotland’s national bard is being brought to virtual life thanks to a team from Glasgow University.

Ellisland Farm, near Dumfries, where Robert Burns lived from 1788 to 1791, has been recreated in its 18th-century form on popular video game Minecraft by students and academics.

The team of around 15 undergraduates and postgraduates, who are part of the university’s Minecraft Society, worked alongside the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust to build the farm as Burns and his family knew it.

Minecraft players will have the opportunity to not only hear Burns’ poetry and songs while exploring the farm, but also interact in Scots with the poet and his wife, Jean Armour.

It is believed that this will be the first time Scots has been used in the game, which attracts nearly 140 million monthly active global users.

The project is a partnership between Glasgow University, Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, which runs Ellisland Museum and Farm in Auldgirth and the South of Scotland Destination Alliance.

The students were recruited to the project by Interface, which helps Scottish businesses grow by matching them to academic expertise.

It was funded through the Scottish Government’s Tourism Leadership and Recovery Fund, which supports businesses and community-led tourism enterprises as the sector recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellisland Farm, recreated in Minecraft, was also the location and inspiration for some of the poet’s most famous works including Tam o Shanter and Auld Lang Syne Pic: Martin Shields

Bailey Hodgson, president and co-founder of the Minecraft Society, said play testers reported to the team that the game encouraged them to want to visit Ellisland in real life.

Hodgson said: “We worked closely with Joan McAlpine at Ellisland, along with Dr Timothy Peacock and Dr Matthew Barr, to ensure we created an authentic experience that captures the farm as Burns would have known it, while also having educational elements.

“Players can interact with Burns as well as use this experience to read and listen to his works.

“Everybody that worked on the game is delighted with the project we have created. We hope that everyone who gets to experience it has an enjoyable time while also learning something about Burns and his work.”

Joan McAlpine, the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust’s business development manager, added: “Heritage attractions are always striving to attract diverse new audiences and this Minecraft game opens Ellisland to potentially large numbers of children and young people all round the world.”

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