Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 95 / APRIL 1988 / PAGE 48

The World Inside the Computer

Fred D'lgnazio, Contributing Editor

The National Gallery Of Art In Your Computer

Dr. Gerri Sinclair, professor of education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of a large group of pioneers in Apple's new HyperCard environment. Dr. Sinclair and her graduate students work at Simon Fraser's EXCITE (Exemplary Center for Interactive Technologies) on three Macintosh computers: a Plus, an SE, and a Mac II. Their goal is to link the 1,645 color slides of works of art on the National Gallery of Art videodisc with a stack of HyperCard cards stored on Macintoshes.

Using Dr. Sinclair's stackware, an art history student at the university can call up a particular work of art just by typing Find followed by the artist's name, such as Find Picasso or Find Leonardo. On the HyperCard card, there is information concerning the painting, drawing, or sculpture, including the name of the artist, the name of the work, the date the work was completed, the medium, the period in art history to which the work belongs, and so on. Each card is linked with a representative slide on the videodisc. As you browse through the stack of cards, the card itself appears on a Mac screen and each work of art appears—in full color—on a monitor.

A Mini-Tour

The cards students browse through also have other unusual characteristics.

Each card in the stack has a number of buttons which link it to other cards and other information. For example, if a student clicks on a video clip button on the Mac screen, the student is taken on a mini art-history tour of the National Gallery that features the work of art he or she is studying. According to Dr. Sinclair, there are 25 full-motion video sequences in the stack excerpted from a 27-minute Tour of the National Gallery which appears at the end of the videodisc.

After taking a brief tour of the gallery, if a student presses the Interactive Comment button, a notepad appears on the screen. The student's remarks, once entered, become annotations to the information linked to the particular work of art. Also, if the student feels inspired by the work of art, he or she may press the sketchpad button to call up a sketchpad for drawing. Or the student may enter keywords which will link the work of art to other works in a report he or she is compiling. To retrieve the National Gallery's collection of Cubist works, for example, a student would type Find Cubism. All the cards representing Cubist works would flash on one screen, and the works themselves would flash on another. At the same time, an instant report (listing all cards) would be compiled by HyperCard. Last, the student could press the biography button to automatically retrieve the biography of the artist whose work is onscreen. (The search would be conducted through Grolier's Online Encyclopedia.)

Toward A Multimedia Database

Dr. Sinclair and her assistants have put in about 200 of the National Gallery slides into the HyperCard stack and have created a significant template for a multimedia database. She is excited about turning the template over to students and art history professors. "I am convinced that putting together a database is one of the most important activities we should offer students in a classroom today," she says. "Through the act of compiling a database, one not only learns research skills and collects a great deal of information on a given field of study, but, perhaps more importantly, one learns how to manage information."

The Grolier Encyclopedia is currently maintained online at Simon Fraser University, but this makes looking up information in the encyclopedia relatively slow compared to the quick access to the cards on the Mac hard drive and the video images on the videodisc drives. In the future, Dr. Sinclair hopes the encyclopedia will come on a compact disc in a Hitachi or Apple CD-ROM drive connected to her multimedia database. Dr. Sinclair says: "There is a public domain stack I am using that enables you to make any word in a piece of text 'hot' or 'linkable' to any place in a stack or any other stack. With the CD-ROM in place, when you hit the biography button on the Picasso card, you will be taken to the encyclopedia articles on Picasso on the CD-ROM. And if you find more topics you'd like to pursue while reading the Picasso article (let's say you want to find out more about the Spanish Civil War after reading about Picasso's "Guernica"), then you just click on a particular word or phrase and you will go directly to another article on the CD-ROM which contains the information you are interested in."

Dr. Sinclair feels that her HyperCard environment will transform the way students research a topic or look up information. HyperCard has the ability to build an audit trail that keeps track of where you have gone in the associative web of information in which you are browsing. That way students never get lost or off-track. In fact, getting off-track becomes an integral part of the learning process.

For more information, contact: Dr. Gerri Sinclair, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6, Canada.