SIGCIS 2011 Workshop: Paper Panel 1: Creating Culture through Materials and Methods

Name: Peggy Kidwell

Institutional Affiliation: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Email Address:

Paper Type: Full Paper

Paper Title: Preserving the Material Culture of Computing Communities

Paper Abstract: Representing communities challenges museums, particularly as they collect, preserve and present recent material.   Mass produced objects designed in one country, manufactured in another and sold for a world market lack the individual touch of many earlier devices.   Nonetheless, preserving tangible reminders of interactions among people is both important and rewarding.  Such objects are needed for display. They link the experience of past people to those in the present.  They offer evidence for historical analysis.  More generally, they help to place the history of specific areas – such as computing - within a larger social and historical context.

Those who consciously design, manufacture, sell, purchase, install, program, run, study, & maintain computing instruments may be grouped in several ways.  Some participants have worked around educational institutions – high schools, universities, and training programs developed by manufacturers and other entrepreneurs.  Business & government organizations, their workers and those they serve also have formed communities – some closer than others.  Computing people have established professional organizations, either within larger organizations or independently.  Finally, the widespread diffusion of relatively inexpensive computing devices in recent years has fostered a variety of user’s groups.   Relevant objects have been preserved in collections.  This talk will draw particularly on those at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.