Getting to know everything about MedArt

 

Getting to know everything about MedArt

            It has been a busy two weeks on the MedArt project. I am thrilled to announce that I have conquered BitCurator, and it is up and running in the VMW. However, that is a fairly recent development so I have not had the opportunity to use it too much. I did manage to get it working last week on my personal laptop. My initial sense of victory was quickly dashed when I began imaging the MedArt files and saw the time remaining was slowly counting down from 68 hours. My five year old PC was clearly running BitCurator under protest. Hopefully, the Macs in the VMW will be better equipped to handle this kind of workload.

            When not grappling with BitCurator I have continued to familiarize myself with everything we have on MedArt. I have been going through the MedArt folders we have saved on a hard drive in search of any anomalies and any differences between the pre-2014 folder and the folder that contains information about the current version of MedArt. One of the more interesting features is an early version of a search box. As far as we know the search box was never implemented. The search box wasn’t really one box but two. In the first box the user was to select the physical location of the architectural site they were looking for, and in the second box they had to select the type of building they were looking for like “church” or “cathedral.” There was also evidence of MedArt being used as a classroom tool in a folder titled “grant.” This folder contained a series of online quizzes on architectural features dated to 1997. I am interested to find out to what extent MedArt was originally intended to be used in the classroom.

            To supplement my understanding of the ways in which MedArt has changed over the years I also utilized the Internet Archive. The earliest snapshot of MedArt on the Wayback Machine was from Dec. 22, 1996 and the latest was from this past June. By looking at these snapshots and the many in between I was able to get a clear view of how much the site has changed over the past 20 years. I isolated five dates that demonstrated the biggest changes to the MedArt site. These five images will illustrate the evolution of MedArt.

            I also did some reading to further my understanding of digital forensics. In fact the entire Sustaining MedArt team read chapter three of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination by Matthew Kirschenbaum. The chapter was called “’An Old House with many Rooms’: The Textual Forensics of Mystery_House.dsk.” In this chapter Kirshenbaum describes his experience analyzing a computer game from the 1980s called Mystery House. He used a disk image of the game which acts as a representation of all the information on the disk at a certain time (Kirschenbaum 2008, 114). This is similar to what I will be doing with MedArt on BitCurator. In this chapter Kirschenbarm highlighted the importance of placing the game in the context of its time. On the Mystery House disk he found evidence that it had once housed two other computer games from earlier in the ‘80s. He concluded that the user of the disk must have overwrote the other games with Mystery House because they had nowhere else to store it and they had finished the other two games (Kirschenbaum 2008, 127). The exercise of placing the files in the context of their time will be an important strategy for the MedArt project which began in 1995. The internet then was very different from what we use today, and it is important that we do not forget that going forward.

            One way I have become better acquainted with the internet of the mid-90s has been by investigating databases similar to MedArt that were established around the same time. Some of the sites I found were the Index of Christian Art, the Early Modern Women Database, the Emily Dickinson Archive, and the Valley of the Shadow. Each site has stood the test of time differently. The Index of Christian Art recently put out a survey and is currently implementing the changes suggested in the returned surveys. The Valley of the Shadow and the Emily Dickinson Archive have recently undergone updates. However, the Early Modern Women Database is no longer being maintained at all by the University of Maryland and hasn’t been since 2012. I also used the Internet Archive to look at these databases before they underwent updates, and found sites very similar to MedArt. I was not able to find anything on the Internet Archive regarding the Early Modern Women Database other than snapshots of a screen that reads “URL not found.” I’m excited to see where we take MedArt as we proceed with this project.

 

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. 2008. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Categories: 
  • Sustaining MedArt
  • Graduate Work