Fueled by a dual passion for production value and the Middle Ages, Ryan Mayhan ’22 created a project that successfully meshes his academic interests. It’s a video, aimed at a general audience, about how cartographers created ideological maps of the medieval mind.  

Mayhan is an interdisciplinary major whose focus is digital arts and media production, and he minors in medieval and Renaissance studies.

To give the video visual appeal, he learned to use the 3D camera feature in Adobe After Effects to create dynamic shots of what would otherwise have been a flat map. On the history side, he more deeply analyzed sources that he studied in his course work — the Hereford Mappa Mundi, the Map Psalter, and the Nuremberg Chronicle. Mayhan explored the psychology of why medieval cartographers portrayed things the way they did in their maps.

Mayhan agreed to answer a few questions about his work, which he did for a course called Race and Racism in the Middle Ages, taught by Assistant Professor of Art History Laura Tillery

What inspired you to develop this project?

I was inspired to make this documentary project because I thought it was a way to synthesize some of what I've learned at Hamilton along with some practical experience that I gained from my internship over the summer, working with Robert Kinkel ’79 (a music engineer and founding member of Trans-Siberian Orchestra) in his NYC studio. I helped out there with video production and assisted in his recording studio.  I took some of that practical industry knowledge, along with skills I've learned in my video classes and my medieval history courses here at Hamilton, and made something that would hopefully be accessible to a wider audience. 

Ryan Mayhan ’22

Major: Interdisciplinary Concentration
Minor: Medieval and Renaissance Studies
High School: Hillsdale High School
Hometown: San Mateo, Calif.

What did you learn doing the work?

As a medieval history minor here, I’ve learned how so much of medieval scholarship has historically been dominated by a singular narrative, that being largely white, straight, Christian, European scholars. The class Race and Racism in the Middle Ages was a fantastic class to begin unraveling this framework. I was inspired to make a project that examined just how much of the history we study is ingrained in this single narrative view of the world —while simultaneously shunning or disregarding any outsiders that don’t fit the narrative. Part of my project’s goal is to expand the audience of medieval history. I want to make it easily digestible by people outside of academia, who may not have access to the same sort of great educational resources we have here at a higher learning institution like Hamilton. In doing this, I aim to break far away from the gatekeeping attitude that has dominated the field for so long.

What are you thinking about doing after Hamilton?

I want to continue to work in media production, hopefully getting into the film industry as a camera operator and eventually become a cinematographer or director. I plan on freelancing in addition to working on film sets, which will hopefully combine into enough connections to make my love for media production into a full career in which I can pursue my own creative projects! I also love music and music production, so I think no matter what sort of projects I’m working on, I’m sure that will work its way in somehow.

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