Thursday, August 09, 2007

My museum of content-related artefacts (end)

The mini-series has ended. I have been showing artefacts I have kept, which I consider part of 30 years new media history. I can not say that I collected them as I kept them more than especially acquired them. When I moved last year I had to make a selection of what I should keep and what I should discard. That was a tough choice. But looking back in the series I think I kept the artefacts dearest to me and discarded material that was still around.

The series also made me realise that I have still a lot of material in boxes. With some 880 CD-ROMs and 88 CD-I discs and some of their boxes and covers I can show the time spirit, while I can still play most of the mini-disc electronic books.

I got a telephone call from a journalist, who complimented me with the series and asked me what I was going to do with it. That was a good question. In the Netherlands we do not have a special place, theme park or a museum for it. The journalist phoned around to potential stakeholders, but he did not come back with good news. In the Netherlands there is a computer museum, but it consists of a depot and does not have any exhibition space. Personally I do not keep my e-book readers for the particular chip or the software, but for the application. Still once there is a computer museum, you can show applications. There is another foundation in the Netherlands which wants to start up a virtual museum. The principle is to photograph and film machines, put them on line, but leave the physical machines with the owners such as companies or private individuals. Personally I think this will not work. Of course big companies like Philips will take care of their company heritage. But with smaller companies a new boss comes in, has other plans and the vintage machines have to move…to the rubbish dump. The same goes for individuals; the family does not have any interest and puts it on the street for garbage collection as soon the individual goes to the old folks home. So a virtual museum without a physical museum is no option to me.

Looking more at the content museums, there are a few options. There is a museum of communication in The Hague. It is the museum of the incumbent telecom company PTT later KPN. The museum is focussing on communication devices. It recently acquired the iPhone gadget. So they might be interested in the videotext executive terminal some day. But not for the time being. As the CD-ROMs and CD-Is are content products the National Library might be interested in them since it has a depot for electronic (mainly textual) products. So some of the text CD-ROMs might be of interest some day. The multimedia products would also fit in the collection of the Institute of Image and Sound, the former broadcast museum. So far they are interested in broadcast and movie material and not in the vintage multimedia products.

You would think that there is still a market opening for a computer museum with a section for applications. Perhaps the idea of a museum is too limited and one would have to organise a hall in a theme park like Walt Disney World Resort with the Epcot centre (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). It could contain vintage computers, vintage content products and services, contemporary products and services and of course vintage and contemporary computer games.

Looking back at the mini-series I realise that the term digital heritage is an ambiguous term. In circles of museums and libraries it is used for digital representations of physical treasures like rare manuscripts. But it is seldom used for artefacts, which have been created with computers and only exist in digital form. Many of these products and services have already been lost as there was no collection policy or any stakeholder. I have already made a plea several times to produce a European database of nominated and winning digital products and services for research in content and economics as well as for entertainment.

I guess that I will return to the subject of digital heritage in the future.

Blog Posting Number: 834


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