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Casting A Wider Net: The Multimedia Research Initiative MAUREENE. MULVIHILL* To the Memory of Fredson Bowers, 1906-1991 J\.esearch methodologies in the humanities are finally taking dramatic new directions. The proliferation of computerized data bases and machine-readable texts is materially revolutionizing the ways scholars are perceiving and conducting original research in the 1990s and beyond. With the aggressive advance of a modern electronic culture, the medium of print — and the print culture that sustained it—is no longer the premier mode of information transmission. These deep cultural shifts were predicted in the 1950s, of course, by pioneering media specialists Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, and others. The relatively recent introduction of new electronic tools into humanities research permits this field to compare favorably at last with research methodologies in the sciences, whose sophisticated projects have relied on the reach of the electronic media since the advent of the computer in academic research several decades ago.1 To an unprecedented degree, humanities researchers can both expand and deepen their searches within seconds because of stateof -the-art electronic tools. Tedious, time-consuming searches in card catalogues and printed bibliographies are now decidedly passé and incomplete : most information available in the print (or paper) medium is literally out of date by the time it enters the public domain. But accelerated high-technology computer networks — some with global resource317 318 / MULVlHlLL sharing capabilities, such as INTERNET, an international online communications network —have the technology to keep pace with today's information explosion. Moreover, the new electronic tools can bring into a search adjacent research areas and fresh directions overlooked in the early planning stages of a project.2 Because of the multiple capabilities of electronic information systems, it is now conveniently possible to widen a search on a given subject to include material available in several media. As a result of my investigations into several obscured English and Continental women writers and patronesses, I have arrived at a deep respect for the value of multimedia research; and I predict that this rich new approach is the next logical step in the ongoing evolution of research methodology. Multimedia probes are now entirely manageable, mostly because of modern electronic systems ; furthermore, they are the most comprehensive and aggressive research strategies we have to date. As my graphic illustrates (see figure 1), the goal of multimedia research is to identify sources of information on a given subject in as many as five different media: manuscript, print, pictorial, electronic, and photographic (i.e., photo-facsimile materials, and microfilm and microfiche collections). Several of these media already are online, of course, such as the principal printed bibliographies, and printed catalogues of book and manuscript collections. Several of these familiar printed sources have been converted from print to electronic formats. Taking the lead as a major producer and vendor of electronic tools for the academic market is Chadwyck-Healey Inc. (Virginia; England, France, Spain), which recently introduced to humanities researchers CDROM formats of the British Library General Catalogue, the English Poetry Full-Text Database (based on the New CBEL), and the British National Bibliography (based on the British Library's BNB). Many major research libraries have designed their own internal databases, such as the Bodleian's DOBIS, Yale's ORBIS, and the New York Public Library's CATNYP. Important scholarly activity throughout the humanities — much of it interdisciplinary—is quickly and comprehensively accessed through the electronic medium. An invaluable adjunct to databases are electronic "bulletin boards," such as HUMANIST, HUMBUL , ANSAXANET, and PACS-L. These "bulletins" keep researchers, librarians, and information scientists current on national and international conferences; they also alert specialists to funding sources and large prototype projects, such as the Dartmouth Dante Project, the Hume Project, the Women Writers Project at Brown University, Project Guttenberg , and the Vatican Library Microfilm Project at St. Louis University.3 Multimedia Research Initiative / 319 Copyright M.Mulvihill 1991 Figure 1. Transmedia Tactics for the '90s - A Paradigm 1. Multimedia Research in Action: Some Applications and Problems Casting a wider net as a multimedia researcher involves procedures such as the following. Example One—A theater historian, in the course of investigating the careers of Restoration actresses Elizabeth Barry, Nell Gwyn, "Moll...