Nonsense about museums and libraries [was RE: Xerox Alto onebay (not mine!)]

Ian King IanK at
Wed Oct 20 10:53:57 CDT 2010


>From my perspective, it is true that collections are often larger than display space - that is undeniable and unfortunate.  Of course, it allows a museum to 'mix it up' and not become stale - which is another common complaint, which would be unavoidable if the museum did not have items in storage!  

In my experience, incoming items are first evaluated for stability.  This is necessary because they often come from private collectors who do not have the resources of a museum and may have stored the items for years in a less than ideal environment, like a musty basement or a garage.  (Some private collectors do better than others.)  Rodent nests (and sometimes carcasses) are removed, areas of decay are cleaned carefully so they do not progress further, and then the item is catalogued and, most likely, stored.  

The item is stored until one of the very few members of the restoration team can attend to it.  In our case, there are three of us who not only restore pieces but also deal with intake and ongoing aspects of display and operation.  We also give tours and lectures.  We engage in public dialogue, such as this forum.  Occasionally we sleep.  

Just what is it you think we should be doing differently?  -- Ian 

PS: as far as librarians go: I was on an advisory board for the UW Libraries for a few years.  Anyone who doesn't think they are hardworking professionals has no clue about what a library is.  Hint: it's a lot more than a bunch of books on shelves.  
From: cctalk-bounces at [cctalk-bounces at] On Behalf Of Rod Smallwood [rodsmallwood at]
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 12:16 AM
To: 'General Discussion: On-Topic Posts Only'
Subject: RE: Nonsense about museums and libraries [was RE: Xerox Alto   onebay  (not mine!)]

>From my perspective museums are icebergs. Most of what they have can't be
seen. Their idea is to put items into storage in whatever condition they
arrived in and do nothing unless the item can form part of a display.

-----Original Message-----
From: cctech-bounces at [mailto:cctech-bounces at]
On Behalf Of Rich Alderson
Sent: 19 October 2010 18:54
To: 'General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts'
Subject: RE: Nonsense about museums and libraries [was RE: Xerox Alto onebay
(not mine!)]

From: Jos Dreesen
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 9:39 PM

On 10/18/2010 11:18 PM, Rich Alderson wrote:

>> But all,*all*, of them have more things in very careful storage than you
>> will ever see unless you go to work for them--and until you have been
>> properly trained in their handling, you'll never lay hand on any of the
>> things around you.

> Luckily not all museums are strict in this regard, or I would not have
> been able to create my ETH Lilith emulator....
> I was enough for them to know I had a working one, and had reliably
> returned documentation lend to me by the ETH, to lend to me several of
> the system disks.

Clearly, someone decided that you had been properly trained! ;-)

Seriously, each museum makes that determination by its own criteria--but
each museum makes that determination.

Rich Alderson
Vintage Computing Sr. Server Engineer
Vulcan, Inc.
505 5th Avenue S, Suite 900
Seattle, WA 98104

mailto:RichA at
mailto:RichA at

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