retr0brite not so right?

Tony Duell ard at
Fri Jul 30 14:25:12 CDT 2010

> On 7/29/10 11:39 AM, Richard wrote:
> >>
> >> For the classic example, Google "Napoleon's Buttons"
> >
> Doron Swade, "Napoleon's Waistcoat Button: Modern Artifacts and Museum 
> Culture," Museum Collecting Policies in Modern Science and Technology 
> (London, 1991) 

I beleive he is involved with the Science Musuem in London (or was when 
that paper was written). All I will say is that given the current state 
of that museum, I wouldn't necessarily agree with everything he says. 

> > Given that lots of computing history is currently in private
> > collections, and that private collectors like to do things like
> > retr0brite their objects, how do museums deal with personal
> > collections that are on loan?
> Exactly as an object in the museum's permanent collection as far as
> preservation practices. We would not bleach an object we didn't own,
> for example.

I would hope you would do nothing to a loaned artefact without the 
owner's permision.

> > However, given the conversation about conservators above it seems that
> > this is something a museum would never allow to be done to one of
> > their artifacts.  Is it that bad, or am I off base here?
> It depends on the goals of the museum. If they want to show running iron,
> you'll have to replace things that fail. The PDP-1 project at CHM is the one
> we use as an example of best practices for restoring and maintaining a running
> artifact.

I feel ethat in many cases the conservation policies are too strict. In 
many ways they treat technical artefacts in the same way as pieces of 
fine art, not reallsing the important difference (to me, anyway) that in 
the latter case the appearances in very important -- the purpose of fine 
art is to be looked at, -- whereas in the former case, the artefact was 
designed to do something. Hence, I feel that machines (in general, not 
just computeers) sghould be got into a running state if at all possible, 
in a way that doesn't alter them more than nevessary, and which certainly 
doesnt' cahnge the fundamental design (that includes not replacing linear 
PSUs with switchers, BTW)>


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