Ultima IV Map Exhibition Preparation at GIS Lounge
Are video games art?
The Smithsonian American Art Museum says “yes” with its newest exhibit, The Art of Video Games. The exhibit is curated by Chris Melissinos of Past Pixels, a group charged with the preservation of video game history. Over the past year, Melissinos — aided by a board of advisors that includes Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, text adventure veteran Steve Meretzky, and Penny Arcade team Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik — designed an exhibit that encourages visitors to make what Melissinos calls “a deeply personal decision” of whether video games are art. The exhibit offers five eras of video games with both playable demos and self-playing videos, showcasing everything from the Atari 2600 to the PlayStation 3, from the traditional platforming of Super Mario Bros. to the more experimental play of Flower.
One of the many artistic treasures on display in the exhibit was a cloth map from Ultima 4, which had been donated to the Smithsonian by Mythic. The exhibit ran from mid-March of 2012 through to the end of September of that year, and categorized its content according to five eras, which were labeled Start, 8-bit, Bitwars, Transition and Next Generation.
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar was a nominee in the SEGA Master System category, and a fabric map from 1985 created by the Ultima Team at Bioware Mythic, Electronic Arts was prepared as part of the exhibit. Exhibit preparation for the map required careful stitching in order to mount the map (see all photos from the exhibit preparation on Flickr). A conservation technician mounted the map from Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar to an archival board for display in the exhibition. She used minimal threads to attach fabric to the map so that it could be mounted without use of adhesives or glue, which would stain the textile.
Okay, there is some confusion there on the part of the folks at GIS Lounge, in that they mistook Mythic — who, again, donated the map — for the creator of the map. Still, it’s quite cool to see something like an Ultima cloth map treated with all the delicacy one might expect to see reserved for a priceless oil painting from centuries past.