MAPping the Future with the New Media.

by Catherine Egan
MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship, v.1 no.1, Spring 1993:11-15.

Many academic libraries are now acquiring and making available to their users media ranging from slides and videotapes to more complex interactive formats involving computers, CD-Rom's, and laserdisc's. New York University's Bobst Library is no exception. Two years ago the Library -- with assistance from National Video Resources, an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation -- embarked on a media-based project. Media Alternatives Project (MAP)called for collaboration with NYU teaching faculty, outside advisors, and consultants.

MAP is designed to introduce independent film and video into history curricula in colleges and universities. Based in the Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media, and working with a national advisory board of historians,media specialists, and independent producers, project staff are developing ways of incorporating non-mainstream film and video into the history classroom: as historical documents and "texts" which deserve the same scrutiny we customarily give to written materials.

North Americans receive much of their knowledge of history from Hollywood films and television. Even films like "Glory," "Come See the Paradise," or "Dances with Wolves," which take pains to recreate historical detail and to include women and people of color in the story, tend to focus on the quest of a white male hero. Independently produced film and video offer other points of view. These alternative media productions, with their emphasis on cultural diversity and social change, challenge conventional assumptions about who "makes" history and whose point of view counts for the historical record. They introduce new subjects, new voices, new styles.

The Media Alternatives Project has identified a body of 126 independent films and videos by and about African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American people which have been acquired for the Avery Fisher Center's collection. All titles are available in video format. Critical reviews of these productions, along with contextualizing essays, together with practical recommendations for locating and using them effectively

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appear in the book "Mediating History: The MAP Guide to Independent Video", edited by Barbara Abrash and Catherine Egan. MAP has also sponsored workshops, a conference, and most recently produced a multimedia prototype called interMAP.


Projects like MAP usually originate in academic departments. But libraries have advantages over individual departments in that they serve the entire institution, keep longer hours, and in the case of Bobst Library, have a centralized media collection upon which to build. In addition, NYU Dean of Libraries, Carlton Rochell, a longtime advocate of media and new technologies, believes that "libraries are rightly perceived as neutral grounds at universities, dedicated to providing access to any and all scholarly resources, regardless of format or content." The MAP video collection and the print and multimedia tools developed to enhance its use have been warmly received at NYU. Students and faculty have come to expect the Library to provide access to culturally diverse subject matter as well as the latest media technologies.


In the Spring of 1992, MAP embarked on a collaboration with software designer Michael Marcinelli, to create interMAP, a multimedia application of MAP. This project has generated far more interest than we could have anticipated.

interMAP is a Macintosh-based electronic reinterpretation of "Mediating History". It is designed to offer simultaneous on-screen access to a variety of media: digitized QuickTime movies, video, sound, graphics, text, and MAP video titles on laser disc. The prototype focuses on one of the 126 video titles dealt with in the book: Lise Yasui's "Family Gathering," a documentary about the internment experiences of one Japanese- American family during World War II. Among the multimedia resources currently available through interMAP are:

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Through a HyperCard program, an almost infinite number of connections between these various types of information are possible. Some of interMAP's features are:

Design of interMAP was kept deliberately simple. The hardware configuration consists of a Macintosh II with 4MB RAM, a laser disc player, and television monitor -- equipment readily available in most media centers, if not in most classrooms. Bobst Library is currently using a Mac IIci with a Pioneer LDV8000 laserdisc player. In addition to the computer monitor, an additional NTSC monitor is needed for the laserdisc images.

From the standpoint of content, much of the foundation of interMAP had already been laid in the preparation of "Mediating History", but the text portions had to be scanned. Software

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programmer Michael Marcinelli spent countless hours developing and refining the design. Development of the prototype, with its focus on "Family Gathering" and the inclusion of QuickTime clips, transcript, research guide, videotaped interview, etc., took the equivalent of approximately two months of full-time work to complete. Treatments of the other titles in "Mediating History" will, of course, require less time since they will fit into the existing template. (Assuming that transcripts, study guides, or other resources are available and do not need to be developed.)

Response to interMAP's content and design has been uniformly enthusiastic. The prototype is available for demonstration purposes in the Avery Fisher Center and the project director and software designer are available to give presentations about MAP and interMAP at other locations. To date, the team has demonstrated it to faculty, media selectors, and students at conferences and institutional settings. Demonstrations have also been given to museum staffs and to educational media distributors, all of whom have identified unique potential uses for this type of multimedia resource. We feel that, fully developed, interMAP could be an invaluable aid in the selection and use of multicultural media.


At this point, plans for completing interMAP are not resolved despite general agreement that it is a potentially valuable educational tool. The two major hurdles to be overcome in its completion are the costs associated with developing treatments for the remaining titles, and the rights and permissions issues surrounding their transfer to a digitized format. MAP is currently exploring ways to accomplish this, focusing on external funding possibilities. In the meantime, interMAP is available at a dedicated carrel in the Avery Fisher Center and three more workstations will be installed shortly.

A related issue is distribution of the finished product. One distribution scenario calls for the MAP video collection to be

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made available on laserdisc, along with the interMAP software, to libraries, museums, and media centers around the country. Another would call for just one centralized video source which would transmit MAP materials electronically over the telephone lines on some kind of pay-per-view basis to participating institutions. While the latter could not be implemented today, this type of venture is currently under active consideration by major communications companies such as PBS, NYNEX, and Apple Computer. Projects like MAP and interMAP are complicated projects. Yet, libraries, too, are major information providers. There should be a role for them to play in this rapidly emerging new environment.

Catherine Egan directs the Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media and the Media Alternatives Project (MAP) at New York Unviersity's Bobst Library.

"Mediating History" is available at $24.00 per cloth copy and $10.35 per paper copy plus US$3.00 shipping and handling per order from New York University Press, Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012. Call (212) 998-2575 to order by phone (FAX orders - (212) 995-3833).

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