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Multimedia Dictionary of

Modern & Contemporary Art

Creative screen design enhances the familiar reources of a biographical dictionary.

The Multimedia Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art builds on the success of a popular book to provide a unique resource with over 2500 encyclopaedic entries on all aspects of fine art in this century.

Through interactively, users can study and compare both textual information and image of works actually held in collections throughout the world.

The Multimedia Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art provides a comprehensive survey of the fine arts from the turn of the 20th century to this, its last decade. Over 2500 entries describe artists, movements and works from museums, galleries and collections throughout the world.

As well as art history per se, the programme also explores issues such as the contemporary political and cultural contexts which influenced both individuals and groups. By exploiting the visual conventions of computer-based multimedia, the package presents much basic information - such as key dates and works in the study of a particular artist - in a dynamic new way which greatly enhances the versatility of the reference material.


This multimedia package is based on a successful book, but its developers - like others in similar situations - were conscious from the outset of the need to develop a distinctively different product which would not simply replicate the resources of a conventional publication in a new medium. Through interactivity, users can move rapidly to any point in the database to find information, pursue ideas and compare images with a facility unparalleled in traditional publishing or broadcasting. The multimedia edition also updates and enhances the material resources of the printed version with many new entries and illustrations.

The Multimedia Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art aims to bridge the gap between the incontestable popularity of modern and, particularly, contemporary - art and the lack of comprehensive general resources for scholars or interested amateurs. Not the least, the multimedia resource brings together a mass of currentinformation within one highly flexible package. In an area which necessarily depends much on ephemeral and elusive resources such as newspapers and periodicals, only those with access to well-stocked and organised libraries generally enjoy the luxury of abundant reference materials. A package such as this can bring a wealth of information easily within reach of anyone with access to a multimedia computer.

The Multimedia Dictionary can effectively present overviews which combine succint factual summaries with direct access to sources of further information and complementary resources.

The package will undoubtedly be of considerable use to scholars and professionals in the art market, for the breadth of its contents and the ease with which specific information can be retrieved within the interactive system. But the dictionary also offers these facilities to a wider public, from students to armchair travellers. Within the electronic world of the multimedia CD, works which are widely scattered through international collections can easily be studied and compared on the computer screen.


Editions Fernand Hazan are the prime contractors and creative force behind the programme, with Videomuseum providing project management and technical implementation. Videomuseum represents a network of some 40 institutions which have pooled resources to create a data and picture bank drawn from their many collections.

As well as marketing and distribution services, the two additional publishing partners - Thames and Hudson of London and Ediciones AKAL of Madrid - are responsible for the English and Spanish translations, respectively.

The database at the heart of the programme has been developed with industry-standard tools, including Standard Generalised Mark-up Language (SGML) and HyTime, a relatively new structuring language for time-based hypermedia packages which was approved by the International Standards Organization (ISO) at the end of 1992. This choice of technical resources helps to ensure that the database can easily be maintained, updated and expanded for use in future editions of the multimedia CD, or related publishing ventures.

The consortium elected to work initially on CD-ROM with a possible view to developing versions of the programme in other platforms (such as CD-i) subsequently. The CD-ROM is compatible with desktop computers in the Mac and PC environments. This approach effectively addresses both the prospect of producing new editions of the multimedia programme, and the challenge of creating compatible software for the range of delivery systems which electronic publishers can now expect to encounter in professional, educational and consumer markets.




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