Global first for major gallery opening

The National Media Museum's new hands-on gallery confirms partnership with Virgin Media.

The opening of a major new gallery at the National Media Museum achieved a global first this year, and confirmed a potent new partnership between the Museum and Virgin Media.

Life Online is the first permanent gallery dedicated to exploring how the internet’s ever-evolving history links to its social, technological and cultural impact on our lives.

Several universities and a host of experts, including Ray Tomlinson, the man who sent the first email, advised on telling the story of the net’s origins, from the experimental Arpanet computer network in 1969 to the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 and beyond.

Funding for the new venture came from the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, the DCMS Wolfson fund and a number of corporate supporters including Virgin Media.

Alongside American computer scientist Vint Cerf, Virgin Media founder Sir Richard Branson opened the gallery in March via a virtual video presence, affirming his faith in the medium on giant overhead screens.

"The internet is all in all a force for good," he said. "From Syria to Israel, Egypt to the US, the power of the internet – to give a voice to those who previously had none – has been proved. The future of the internet is truly tied to the future of the planet."

Visitors in the Life Online gallery at the National Media Museum, Bradford

Life Online was the first of Virgin Media's three ambitious sponsored projects with the Science Museum Group. The most significant is Media Space, which from next year will showcase the National Media Museum’s many world-class collections within a flexible gallery at the Science Museum in London to promote debate about creative technologies.

On the Museum's blog, the Your Life Online project invites the public to share their experiences alongside Richard Branson's and Vint Cerf's. Cerf wrote: "Things we can’t remember we can find with Google. The network remembers for you."