Ultima IV Map Exhibition Preparation at GIS Lounge

Preparing the map

Preparing the map

Some of you may remember the news, from a couple years ago, about a feature at the Smithsonian called The Art of Videogames:

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.

Well…Cran Gallara unearthed some coverage of how the Ultima 4 cloth map was prepared for display; it was, in effect, treated like an ancient relic:

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.

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Boolean Dragon Boolean Dragon 2 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #23186
    WtF Dragon
    WtF Dragon
    Participant

    Ultima IV Map Exhibition Preparation at GIS Lounge

    A look at the methods used to preserve and display the Ultima 4 map at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “The Art of Videogames” exhibit.

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  • #23187
    Boolean Dragon
    Boolean Dragon
    Participant

    That is awesome. I can’t say I was as reverent with mine. On the Ultima V map I painted in dungeon icons and their names in runic with a fine-tipped brush and black paint. Never finished it, and am still undecided on whether I regret it.

    I think whatever the source of the map they did the right thing in its treatment. Most artifacts don’t arrive in pristine condition but are still handled with gloves and care to prevent further contamination. I just looked at the photos in TFA, and dammit she didn’t wear gloves. Future generations won’t appreciate the oil transfer, which hopefully won’t chemically react with the delicate pigments used in the production. At the very least I hope it’ll be in a hermetically sealed frame with the air replaced with an inert gas to prevent decomposition and consumption by small insects. A UV filter or special lighting would be nice as well to avoid an interaction with harmful wavelengths of light.

    eightvirtues.com/games | youtube.com/user/VasCorpBetMani | twitter.com/eightvirtues

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