The renovation and repurposing of the Multimedia Center (MMC) into a digital humanities center is underway.
According to Director of Digital Humanities for Rush Rhees Library and head of the MMC Nora Dimmock, who is leading the transition, the project does not involve any extensive construction. The main changes include new paint, new comfortable and movable furniture such as tables, chairs, white boards, and a carpet cleaning.
The main change will be in how the space is utilized. According to Dimmock, by the end of spring break, the MMC will be a center for digital humanities research. The staff offices, currently located in the back of the center, will be moved to the front “so that you can see the activity that’s really happening.” Graduate and undergraduate research and collaboration will be encouraged by the availability of the new space.
“I think it will be a place where students can go to meet with faculty and work with faculty on undergraduate research,” Dimmock said. “I think we’ll be able to provide a home for research teams.”
All DVDs currently available for student viewing in the MMC will be moved to the Art and Music Library. Dimmock said this transfer makes sense, as the Art and Music Library is growing as an arts library and is open for longer hours than the MMC.
Examples of the kind of research that is being conducted currently by students and faculty through the Digital Humanities Center and that will continue to utilize the updated Multimedia center are the creation of historical digital archives, Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping projects, and the 3D recreation of a historic Rochester train station that was torn down in the 1960’s.
“People are doing more modes of digital scholarship,” Dimmock said in reference to the need for more environments conducive to digital humanities research.
Dimmock described the new MMC as an “extension of Rettner Hall, but with the expertise built in.”
Dimmock addressed the possible effects of the transition on students who currently utilize the MMC.
“The Multimedia Center has always been a really great place for underrepresented students,” Dimmock said. “We’ve always had a really […] loyal following; transition is hard.”
Dimmock said the change is in response to the changing utilization of media by students.
“People have changed the way they consume media,” Dimmock said.
When the MMC was built, it was geared toward a demand that no longer exists due to the development and expansion of resources like Netflix and online availability of movies.
According to Dimmock, circulation of DVDs in the MMC dropped 68 percent in the last year.
Similar adjustments to changing media have occurred through the history of the MMC, beginning with 16mm film and laserdiscs, and developing into the need for VHS tapes by students, which lasted about fifteen years until the advent of the DVD.
Dimmock said the physical copies of the movie collections will be preserved, but that “It seemed artificial to create a whole library around a format that anybody could play.”
Student employees who currently work in the MMC will not return to the job in the fall of 2014. They will keep the job for the remainder of the semester, however. Dimmock said the transition has been expected for some time now, so student work hours have been decreasing over time and workers have not been actively replaced. The majority of student employment in the MMC next year will be through research projects granted by professors.
The new MMC post-spring break will exist in a transitional period as faculty figures out how to best utilize the renovated space, according to Dimmock. She said it will give them time to “think about the use of the space,” and that student input is always welcome.