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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK


Online: A history of conflict

Soundbites and video footage illustrate the menu

After more than three decades covering the violent and turbulent events in Northern Ireland, the BBC has produced what it calls the "definitive audio-visual resource" on the history of the conflict.

The Search for Peace
Its new educational CD Rom, A State Apart, aims to provide a network of in-depth information and debate for schools and colleges.

It took 18 months and thousands of hours to design and compile.

[ image: Events from the civil rights demonstrations of the late 60s to last year's Good Friday Agreement are covered]
Events from the civil rights demonstrations of the late 60s to last year's Good Friday Agreement are covered
The process was an exhaustive one. BBC Northern Ireland spokesman Austin Hunter said: "We consulted a number of distinguished historians and journalists on the subject.

"Any history of Northern Ireland is going to be a contentious thing but we have always tried to present the facts impartially and objectively.

"The BBC has been in Northern Ireland for 74 years and is the only broadcaster to have covered the whole of the Troubles.

"It seemed an obvious thing for us to make use of our archives in an interactive format."

It features four main periods in Northern Ireland's recent history - Civil Rights, Power Sharing, Hunger Strike and Agreement.

[ image: Personal testamonies are given]
Personal testamonies are given
A voice-over is accompanied by video montage and soundbites from each of the four areas.

A timeline is the principle method of navigating the disc, with icons leading off to notable points in the Province's history, from the civil rights demonstrations of the late 60s, up until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Descriptions of events are complimented with personal testimonies, newspaper cuttings, video, stills and maps.

The perspectives of individual citizens, as well as those of key politicians and movers in the history of Northern Ireland are utilised.

Comprehensive breakdowns of election results at all stages of the conflict are provided, complete with maps and graphics.

[ image: Video footage and newspaper stills back up commentary]
Video footage and newspaper stills back up commentary
Soberingly, between applications, the screen blacks out and the details of individual deaths directly related to the violence are displayed.

An unusual feature of the package is its notebook facility, which allows users to compile multimedia presentations.

Utilising information from the disc - and from elsewhere - students can initially compile their own multimedia packages.

Then, via a connection to the disc's own website - also called A State Apart - users can share their views and presentations.

The interactive dimension to the history is designed to give anyone with first hand experience of the violence in Northern Ireland a forum to tell their version of events.

And it gives students an opportunity to share projects.

The CD has been funded by BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Resources Ltd, and the Community Relations Council of Northern Ireland, with assistance from the European Social Fund's Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.

[ image: Profiles of all key players in the Troubles are available]
Profiles of all key players in the Troubles are available
It isn't available for sale to the general public as yet, but can be bought in Northern Ireland by schools and educational facilities.

Mr Hunter said: "We hope to reach a point where every school in Northern Ireland will have a copy of A State Apart.

"The multimedia element gives people a chance to have their say in a document recording their history.

"It is not meant to be a complete history - but we hope it will be an organic one, one that grows as more and more people come to use it."

Interactive Graphic Designer on the project, Simon Robson, said: "Unlike more traditional and passive media, it gives users the opportunity to delve into its treasures as they wish.

"We've empowered them to explore the content however and whenever they wish - and interact with it as well.

"And what's more, users can contribute to the attached website, providing a dynamic element which should keep the project going well into the 21st Century."

Mr Hunter added: "History is being made every day here. Amongst many other things, A State Apart allows people to have a part in documenting these important events."

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