UPDATED! Walk Like an Egyptian: A Visit to the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Second Life (and Some Free Egyptian Outfits!)

This is a blogpost that I have been sitting on for a while, from a tour I took last March, which I only found the time to finish editing this afternoon. It’s a long blogpost, so go get some coffee and settle in!

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, a division of the American Library Association) has a Virtual Worlds Interest Group (VWIG) which provides an opportunity for academic librarians with virtual world interests and responsibilities to have a place in ACRL to network, share information, ask questions, and work on special projects and programs relevant to academic libraries. The Interest Group also works to promote the various uses of virtual environments to potential and current academic librarians and to improve information literacy specifically in virtual worlds. The ACRL VWIG sponsors events, programs and meetings held mainly within the virtual world of Second Life and explores other developing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality environments.

On March 17th, 2021, I participated in an ACRL Virtual Worlds Interest Group-sponsored tour of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Second Life.

Here’s your taxi to the Info Hub for the sprawling complex of sims that is home to the Library, where there is a panel taking you to six different areas (3 for ancient Egyptian Alexandria, and 3 for ancient Greece):

Or, if you want to travel there directly, here’s the exact SLURL to the Library of Alexandria. (The entire set of sims is well worth a wander, however! Set aside a couple of hours, and if your avatar should need some appropriate historical attire, just scroll down to the end of this blogpost for some freebies for men and women!)

The hypothetical historical recreation of the Library of Alexandria in Second Life

Here’s a bit of background on the library complex and its historical significance (I believe I picked up this notecard at the site of the library in Second Life):

The Musaeum or Mouseion at Alexandria (Ancient Greek: Μουσεῖον τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας), which included the famous Library of Alexandria, was an institution said to have been founded by Ptolemy I Soter. This original Musaeum (“Institution of the Muses”) was the home of music or poetry, a philosophical school and library such as Plato’s Academy, and also a storehouse of texts. It did not have a collection of works of art; rather it was an institution that brought together some of the best scholars of the Hellenistic world, analogous to a modern university. This original Musaeum was the source for the modern usage of the word museum.

The idea of collecting all the past Greek literature at Alexandria had also a very important ideological goal, since it presented the Ptolemaic capital as the legitimate heir of ancient Greece. The Ptolemaic capital emerged as the hub of the latest discoveries in many fields. Ptolemaic patronage was central to the growing prestige of Alexandria in Hellenistic scientific development.

it was most likely founded by Ptolemy I (306–282 bce) (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.8.11), and Ptolemy II (282–246 bce) might have developed it further.

The Hellenistic kings also fostered ‘scientific research’, especially the Ptolemies who founded the Museum on the model of the Mouseia of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Peripatos (Plut. Non posse 1095d). The Ptolemies, were particularly active in promoting scholarship, with the result that scientific and technical knowledge flourished under their rule. They funded research institutions such as the Library, providing scholars with funds and the necessary tools (i.e. books) for carrying out their research (direct patronage). Despite the gaps in our evidence, the Ptolemies seem indeed to stand out for their scientific patronage, both because they were the first to embark on such a project, and because they did so to a far greater extent than the other Hellenistic rulers. It eventually left an enduring legacy in science and scholarship

A second library in the Serapeum, the temple of Serapis, was probably founded by Ptolemy III (246–222 bce). The Royal Library was led by a head librarian, perhaps called προστάτης τῆς βιβλιοθήκης, who was appointed by the king and also served as royal tutor. Ptolemy III had issued an order that all books on ships arriving at Alexandria had to be taken and copied: the originals would be kept in the Library and only the copies returned to the owners.

More than 1,000 scholars lived in the Mouseion at a given time. Staff members and scholars were salaried by the Mouseion and paid no taxes. They also received free meals, free room and board, and free servants. The Mouseion was administered by a priest appointed by the Pharaoh.

The Mouseion’s scholars conducted scientific research, published, lectured, and collected as much literature as possible from the known world. In addition to Greek works, foreign texts were translated from Assyrian, Persian, Jewish, Indian languages, and other sources. The edited versions of the Greek literary canon that we know today, from Homer and Hesiod forward, exist in editions that were collated and corrected by the scholars assembled in the Musaeum at Alexandria.

Here is an edited transcript of our guided library tour, along with some pictures I took. Ellen of Sparta was our tour guide:

Ellen of Sparta: Welcome! Ok… so, lets start. I want to welcome you, to this Tour of the Great Library. This past weekend, in the USA, we set our clocks for spring, by moving one hour ahead, for Daylight Savings Time. And now, since all of you have arrived safely, I will suggest that you move your clocks back by 2063 years, as we live in the year 42 BC. This is an ancient region and the architecture and lifestyles, reflect this time. I would like to make some formal introductions and explain a little about what we do here. We are a region of 3 sims, representing two Kingdoms, Egypt (Alexandreia, where we are now) and Greece (Sparta and Delos, adjacent). We are roleplay sims, dedicated to a realistic recreation of this era of history.

Ryan Schultz: Do we have to take part in the roleplay?
Ellen of Sparta: You do not.
Ryan Schultz: Or can we just observe?
Ellen of Sparta: You can visit. Also we have a mix of activities that complement our roleplay including special events, lectures, armies and tournaments, re-enactments of religious rituals, museums, belly dance every Sunday, and modern club events. The Queen and sim owner of two sims, Alexandreia and Rhakotis (representing Egypt) is a lady who has a passion for this historical era, Queen Kleopatra T. Philopator. It was her vision, that led to the creation of Alexandreia, and this Great Library and these two sims of Egypt. I am Queen and sim owner of Greece (Sparta and Delos) which are adjacent. In my sim are two Greek regions of fame, the city state of Sparta, and the sacred island of Delos, located in the Aegean Sea. I encourage you, in your free time to visit and tour.
Valibrarian Gregg: We want to share this space with other educators and librarians
Ellen of Sparta: We have 2 groups, one for Egypt, and one for Greece.. I can add anyone to both and, then you see our notices, for all events

Ellen of Sparta: In the plaza below, where you arrived…we have a statue of Plato, an Exhibit Area, & a Classroom. We also have amphitheaters for lectures. This building… we are in is based our Library upon the one from the film 2009 “Agora” (starring Rachel Weisz & directed by Alejandro Amenabar). This was a movie set.. but well done, so our architect, copied it for here. Once the largest library in the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria contained works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity, including Homer, Plato, Socrates and many others. Alexandria was considered the capital of knowledge and learning for several centuries, in part because of this library. Originally, this was called the “Mouseion” named after, the “muses”.
Ryan Schultz: Fascinating
Ellen of Sparta: And we get the word, museum, from the Muses
Ryan Schultz: And of course museums and libraries are still closely linked today in many places
Ellen of Sparta: It was actually part of a larger complex, known as the Museum of Alexandria and included rooms for the study of astronomy, anatomy, and even a zoo containing exotic animals. While no one knows for sure, the library may have held from 40,000 to 400,000 to 700,000 papyrus scrolls. It was, in its day, the premier library [in the world].

Ellen of Sparta: So, as you look around… the porch, where you came in, has 4 Caryatids at the entry (draped female figures, inspired by the Erechtheion, the Porch of the Maidens, located in Athens). Within the Library are bookcases filled with Scrolls. On the floor of the Library is a mosaic of a Medusa Head (Roman 2nd-3rd century AD, the original is in the Sousse Archaeological Museum, Tunisia). And on the walls are reproductions of ancient egyptian Heiorglyphs.

Ryan Schultz:
I wonder how they kept track of everything here, they must have had some sort of library catalogue
Ellen of Sparta: Our growing library contains one of the largest collection of notecards [text files] in Second Life. Yes Ryan, I can answer that. So, there was a Head Librarian appointed by the Pharaoh and, under his authority, he, himself, or, one of his staff, were in charge of cataloguing. Some spent all their time, cataloging the scrolls.
Ryan Schultz: I bet…400,000 to 700,000 [scrolls] is a LOT.
Ellen of Sparta: With such a large number of scrolls.. yes.. it was a huge task
Ryan Schultz: I had heard they even forced ships to deliver all their scrolls here for copying before they were allowed to leave
Ellen of Sparta: That is true
Masokomi Kiyori: It is thought that approximately 100 people may have worked here.
Ellen of Sparta: We are thinking, at any one time, there may have been up to 1000 in the Library and Mousieion (University).So, it was, a campus. It was, in fact, one of the original research universities in the world, and endured hundreds of years, from Ptolemy I until about 400 AD, so a span of roughly 700 years.

Ellen of Sparta: Our growing library contains one of the largest collection of Notecards in Second Life. This is an active library; you can come, and do research.
The Library is open to all. No library card is required!!!
Ryan Schultz: How did I not know this was here? I’ve been in SL 14 *years* now and this is the first I have heard of it!
Valibrarian Gregg: yes Ryan! That is a huge problem! we don’t know about all the great education sims! That is why we formed the Virtual World Education Consortium and I will talk with Ellen later about it- to promote this 🙂
Ellen of Sparta: In front of each bookcase… is a podium, with the topic.” Touch” a bookcase behind one of the subjects displayed (Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ptolemy, Festivals of Egypt, or Alexandria),

Ellen of Sparta: So, did everyone click on a bookcase? So, you should have seen a menu, and each bookcase is a different subject matter. There are hundreds of notecards [text files] here, and a few images, but mostly notecards. So, what we want to do, is replicate the idea , of the original Library of Alexandreia…and that is, to become, the premier storehouse of info, on the ancient world
Zoe Foodiboo: I love that this library is beautiful and useful!
Ryan Schultz: Yes so do I!
Masokomi Kiyori: Does Alexandria accept scrolls from outside parties on related topics?
Ellen of Sparta: Yes

Valibrarian Gregg: So happy to have found this amazing simulation! Thank you so much Ellen of Sparta!
Ellen of Sparta: You are welcome, Val.

If you wish to pay a visit the Library of Alexandria or other ancient Egyptian historical and roleplay sims in Second Life, you can pick up some free outfits for your trip! Teleport here to the Temple of Nefertari sim, and click on the signs below to pick up some free Egyptian sandals for men and women:

And, right next door at this SLURL, click on this sign to join the Temple of Nefertari group for free:

With that group active, on the opposite wall of this room you can pick up three female outfits and one male outfit for free!

The Egyptian Formal ladieswear includes the wrist and ankle cuffs shown, and the package even includes a braided wig to finish off the look! The ornate gold-and-white dress and jeweled collar comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Belleza Freya, Venus, and Isis; Tonic Curvy and Fine; eBody; Ocacin; and the Meshbody Classic/TMP mesh bodies, plus five standard sizes. (This avatar is also wearing the free ladies’ sandals I picked up earlier, which come in sizes to fit Belleza, Maitreya, and Slink mesh feet).

The Egyptian Girl outfit consists of a linen skirt and top, and also includes wrist and ankle bands (not shown, they are similar to the previous picture), plus the short black wig shown. This outfit comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Belleza Freya, Venus, and Isis; and the Meshbody Classic/TMP bodies.

Note that both the white top and and the white skirt are tintable and texturable, so you can recolour and repattern these pieces for use with other outfits!

Here’s what the free men’s outfit looks like, with the free sandals I mentioned earlier. The tunic comes in five standard sizes, and the sandals come in versions to fit Belleza, Signature, Slink, Adin, Onupup, and Ocacin mesh feet. (I had a bit of trouble getting this tunic to fit right on the shoulder area of this Altamura men’s mesh body, but at least I was able to get a good picture for the blog!)

UPDATE Oct. 13th, 2021: If you are shopping for Egyptian outfits, there’s a new, free group gift over at the Virtual Diva store of this costume (the Virtual Diva group is free to join).

Here’s a closer look at the outfit, which includes the wristband and the helmet (the Egyptian sandals are the freebie ones I picked up at the Temple of Nefertari sim):

Happy freebie shopping!

UPDATED! An Urgent Fundraiser for Timothy Jackson (Maxwell Graf in Second Life and Sansar)

I regret that I haven’t been blogging very much lately (I’ve been full-on occupied with training requests and other projects this September at my university), but I wanted to use my blog to amplify a plea for help from a virtual world friend, Timothy Jackson, whom many of you know better as Maxwell Graf, a talented content creator in both Second Life and Sansar. I interviewed Max back in 2017 about his work in Sansar. His Second Life store is called Rustica: in-world location; SL Marketplace).

The sign at the entrance to Max’s Rustica store in Second Life

Like so many who have had their lives upended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tim/Max and his wife are in danger of losing their home, so they have started a GoFundMe page:

Tim/Max writes:

We just had an offer accepted this week on the mobile home you see in the picture, our lender approved it but today we found out our total costs to go into contract are about twice what we have in our savings account. We have not been able to find housing close enough to let [my wife] keep her job, renting or buying, until this one. We are so close to having some stability. We need your help desperately to be able to keep from becoming homeless again. Please fund us if you can.

If you can help them with a donation, no matter how small, to help them meet their GoFundMe goal of US$7,500, it would mean a stable roof over their heads. Or, if you prefer, perhaps you can purchase something for your virtual home in Second Life from Rustica, such as this amazingly detailed set of bookshelves and books:

I personally own this set, and I never fail to marvel over the workmanship, and smile at the clever titles on the spines of the individual books!

Thank you for your support.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m.: Jinkies, from the Second Life Syndicate blog, has also written about this fundraiser, saying:

I have known Maxwell Graff (Timothy Jackson) of Rustica for many years, in and out of SL.  Having known him and his wife Lyric, and all they have had to go through, I am hoping we can do our best to help them in their time of need.  They are at risk of becoming homeless as they wait to try and buy a house.  There is more to the story, which you can read on the GoFundMe page, but I will post a bit of it below.

What we are all hoping people can pitch in in any way they can, no matter how big or small.  There is the GoFundMe page for direct donations, the in world store location to buy his products, and the marketplace (it is not fully updated so some products are not listed).

Others are also helping get the word out, so know it is not just me.  Max is dear to many of us, so if you would like to see what some of the others have to say, you can check out blogs from  Ryan Schultz  and  Mona Eberhardt.

UPDATE Oct. 6th, 2021: I just wanted to let everybody know that Max/Tim and his wife met their goal, and have closed their GoFundMe page, posting the following message:

We have reached our goal, between this fund and donations to our PayPal, so [we] have locked accepting further donations, rather than continue to keep this open! We have what we needed, what we asked for, and more than we dared to hope. Thank you to all who shared, reposted, blogged, upvoted, linked, and most of all to those who donated. As of today we are legally in contract for the house and will be able to get this home. Your kindness and love have made every difference. WE ARE LIFTED BY OTHERS.

Congratulations to Tim/Max and thank you to all who contributed!

Teaching a Psychology Course at Mount Royal University using AltspaceVR

Dr. Tony Chaston in the virtual world he created for his psychology course in AltspaceVR

Psychology Professor Tony Chaston of Mount Royal University (in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) has developed a new psychology course that will teach students using the social VR platform AltspaceVR. The undergraduate-level course, which is called The Digital Frontier: Perception, AI and Virtual Reality in Psychology, is described as follows in the course calendar:

This course focuses on psychological theory and application relevant to interacting with current and emerging digital technologies. Topics will typically include interfacing and communicating with artificial intelligence, perception and cognition in digital spaces such as virtual and augmented reality and how we can feel “present” in our digital experiences. This course will be taught in a Virtual Reality Classroom. 

Note: This course requires students to have a Virtual Reality Head Mounted Display (HMD). 

According to a news article from Mount Royal:

The first of its kind in Canada, the class, which started Sept. 14, filled its 20 spots (standard for a fourth-year psych course) in a matter of days…

“Immersion in media is a topic that’s been around for a long time, but it takes on a whole different level when you talk about it in VR,” Chaston says, noting it will play a role in everything from work and play to shopping as retailers set up VR stores.

After diving deep into what VR is and how it works, the course will focus on Chaston’s research into using VR nature scenes to lower stress levels. The class is set up as a three-hour block and already students have been invited to a couple of VR “events” to ensure they are comfortable in the space.The first day was an introduction, including basic etiquette for behaviour in VR. While most class time will be in VR, there will be time for group work that uses other more traditional online formats like Google Meet so that students aren’t wearing headsets for three hours straight. As note-taking is tough in VR, those will be provided separately.

Chaston credits Anna Nuhn (who has since left MRU) and Erik Christiansen at the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and MRU psychology professor Dr. Evelyn Field, PhD, for their help over the past year in developing the course.

“This course is possible thanks to Tony’s willingness to immerse himself in the pedagogy of VR and best practices for designing virtual learning environments,” said Christiansen, an assistant professor and subject librarian at the MRU Library who has a background in information technology.

It’s wonderful to see more use cases of social VR in university teaching! For 15 more examples of the use of social VR in higher education, I can refer you to my recent half-hour presentation on the topic to the University of Manitoba Senate Committee on Academic Computing, as well as all my blogposts tagged Higher Education.

Thank you to Kari Kumar of the University of Manitoba for the heads up!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: A Beautiful Free Ballgown from SOFIA

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group yet? I will be posting EVEN MORE news and tips on finding fabulous freebies and bargains in Second Life than I post here on the blog! More information on this brand new SL group here.

One of the things I love about Second Life is that, even after 14 years of criss-crossing the grid, I still encounter stores that I have never visited before! And today, I visited a store, new to me, which is actually celebrating its 15th anniversary in SL, called SOFIA.

If you join the SOFIA store group for free, you can pick up this fabulous red ballgown for free:

So, of course, I had to style a look around this glorious gown!

Here’s your limo to take you to SOFIA…happy freebie shopping!

Vanity Fair is wearing:

  • Hair: Lady updo by Truth Hair
  • Jewelry: the Blossom ruby and black diamond jewelry set from J&W Jewelers, a store which unfortunately seems to have ceased operation, as I cannot find them in-world or on the SL Marketplace at all!
  • Gown: Mira Star gown in cherry (free gift from SOFIA; the group is free to join; the gown comes in sizes to fit Maitreya, Freya, Hourglass, Legacy and Kupra mesh bodies)
  • Shoes (not shown): Gigi crimson pumps by Garbaggio, my favourite shoe store! 
  • Gold Wedding Band: by Su Xue (as a warning signal to keep the male pestering to a minimum 😉 ).

Vanity Fair is also wearing: