This week in multimedia news -- "MayaQuest," "Virtual James Dean," and "Art Treasures of Russia" make news

By Tim Purtell
Updated December 23, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Great news for armchair archaeologists: In February, Classroom Prodigy — Prodigy’s educational on-line service — will launch MayaQuest, the first truly interactive virtual field trip. Bicyclist Dan Buettner and four other adventurers will embark on a three-month cycling expedition through the ancient Mayan ruins in Central America. Along the way, Buettner will act as Classroom Prodigy subscribers’ eyes and ears. Using a laptop computer and a special satellite uplink, he’ll post daily diary entries and photos, and twice a week, he’ll chat with sedentary travelers, who will be able to direct Buettner’s explorations, voting on what course he should follow and what sites he should visit. ”Kids have uninhibited insights,” Buettner says. ”They think outside the normal scientific method and make intuitive leaps. They may come up with questions that will lead archaeologists to real answers.”

That icon of restless youth and inarticulate frustration, James Dean, will become the subject of a multimedia retrospective when Creative Media and 2-Lane Media release the Virtual James Dean CD-ROM in August. Highlights will include clips from the actor’s films, rare home movies, and previously unseen photos from his screen test for Rebel Without a Cause.

On exhibit beginning in February: Art Treasures of Russia, a CD-ROM survey of the collections of Russia’s major museums. To obtain the electronic publishing rights to 90,000 pieces of art from the Hermitage and Pushkin museums, as well as several other respected institutions, RoundBook Publishing Group had to go up against Microsoft (whose proposal called for much broader control). We may not know much about art, but we know that beating Bill Gates is an artful maneuver in anyone’s book.