Public Lab & Library

Public Lab

Public Lab & Library, New Computer Museum v. 1.5

One of the primary goals of the New Computer Museum’s physical space would be to provide a public lab and library for use by non-profit organizations, educators, artists and others. It would be modeled on Harvard’s Libraries and Archives approach, but the facilities and services would be available to anyone with a non-commercial need.

The New Computer Museum already has a solid start on having the collection and expertise to do this. The collection includes over a hundred computers covering most major brands along with key peripherals such as drives and printers. There is a software library with all of the necessary operating system, utility and productivity software needed to retrieve almost any data created since the Apple II. There is also an extensive collection of documentation, magazines and books about computer history.

Some of the collection actually dates back to when Mary Hopper had a small, popular computer business in Harvard Square named Studio-E back in the 1990s.

SE-1208 SE-SS
Studio-E, Harvard Sq. (1994-1997)

Here is video that was done by the Boston Globe quite some time ago.

Cambridge museum aims to preserve digital history (Video, August 30, 2013)

Here’s a less elaborate “quick-pan” of the collection as it was in 2013.

The collection was actually much larger than was pictured at that time, and it has more than doubled in both size and diversity since then.

This is also just a description of Mary Hopper’s original collection. There have been many donations since then. In addition, if there were a physical location, local collectors and hobbyists in the area would also be invited to both contribute and support the public lab, collaborate on standing exhibits in the museum, exhibit their own work, use the space for meetings and safely store key artifacts (within limits, of course! 😉 ).

New Computer Museum Event Microsoft NERD Center, March 19

Finally, there are a few key partners who are more than willing and able to provide whatever would be needed to setup and maintain a public lab and library if there is ever a real, physical location to hold it.

Among other things, this would allow the lab to include numerous brands of graphics workstations (Sun, SGI etc.). Of course, pictures are better than words, and videos better than that, so here is a video that illustrates the point nicely.

You can learn a lot more about the sources and evolution of the collection by checking out the far more extensive history page.

Related sites
Computer History and Preservation (
Saving the digital record (Kate Kondayen, Harvard Gazette, May 2015)

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