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National MSM of the American Indian on Google Maps; Why truncate the word Museum?
|| 3/31/2008 || 1:55 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Last night I was using Google Maps and discovered that the label for the National Museum of the American Indian has been truncated to be “National MSM of the American Indian.” This raised alarm because the shorthand for MSM is more recognized as “MainStream Media” not museum. Native Americans have been shortchanged for hundreds of years by the American government, and I found it downright rude that the museum’s name has been cartographically shortchanged as well. So why shorten the name?

I’d like to think its proximity is a joke; a spurious correlation at best. The museum is across the street from America’s propaganda headquarters known as Voice of America. Many people believe that the MSM is one of the means to convey propaganda domestically through the use of cable news, radio programming, and general entertainment. However, what is unique is that Voice of America is explicitly forbidden by Congress from broadcasting in America.

This juxtaposition finds a building dedicated to showcasing the history of North America’s native population being written using shorthand used to describe the building across the street, which is not allowed to broadcast to the contemporary population. There is also a internal (native) / external (foreign) disconnect in their proximity and labeling. VOA is America’s contemporary external voice to the world and the Native American Indians are the internal voice of America’s past.

But Museum to MSM? Maybe it’s because it’s because the entire name is too long. There is only one building nearby on the National Mall that has had its name shortened in a similar fashion: US Dept of Housing and Urban DVLPT.

Some of the nearby labels:
[36] Hirshhorn Museum & Sculptural Garden
[35] National MSM of the American Indian
[35] National Museum of American History
[34] US Dept of Housing and Urban DVLPT
[34] National Museum of Natural History
[31] US Department of Transportation
[31] Dept of Health & Human Services
[X] – indicates the number of characters {including white space}
(not all locations in screen grab above)

Without the truncation of MSM, the museum’s label would be the second longest if DVLPT was also written out. However, as it is written now, the Hirshhorn has the longest name. Summarily, I don’t think the addition U EU would cause too many issues in the amount of space dedicated to labels. Maybe Sanborn, NAVTEQ should just up the character length value when exporting their raw data to the Google Maps interface? Then they could correct this error. I wonder if this would revision would make the MSM? ha.

This brings me to the lexical practice of disemvowelment, where words are stripped of their vowels to partially censor people’s on-line comments. I read the discussion on BoingBoing.net the other day, yet while it might be a new practice to moderate people’s comments, today I realized that it’s currently being used poorly to moderate the amount of information on maps.

Lastly, since Google is withholding the newer public domain imagery of the museum, the current imagery of the museum shows that the building is still under construction— it was finished years ago! Nearly 9 months after this was discovered, DC has not been updated to show the rest of the city. A continued disservice to tourists, residents, and government employees.



Post Title: National MSM of the American Indian on Google Maps; Why truncate the word Museum?
Post Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in: Commentary, DC, Google Maps, Location, Mall
Last edited by Nikolas Schiller on 3/31/2008 at 3:10 pm



  1. Thanks for your post on the naming convention for the Indian Museum in DC. We’re traveling there next week, but I noticed this building under construction and couldn’t locate it by search “MSM” as you predicted.

    Comment by D. — 7/7/2008 @ 10:04 am

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