‘Nu voor later’ Conference
Loes Peeperkorn from the Scen foundation kicked off the conference ‘Nu voor Later’ at the Reinwardt Academy. She welcomed everybody and spoke about the conference’s goal; to increase attention for IT heritage or ‘new heritage’ in the Netherlands. The Scen foundation, co-organizer of the conference, is a collaboration between collectors, cultural heritage institutions and companies.
One of the speakers Doron Swade inspired us with a vivid presentation about preserving IT heritage. He is an engineer, historian and curated many exhibitions at several museums amongst others the Science Museum, London and the Computer History Museum. He explained dilemma’s that occur while restoring/preserving historic computing machines. One of them is authenticity; what is more important a machine that works using non-original parts or a non-working but authentic machine? Would we be misleading future generations if we used non-original parts? Is it all about hardware or software (the idea behind the machine)? There are no definite solutions for these dilemmas. It’s an ongoing process and a curator’s job to search for the balance between authenticity and the (educational) value of working machines.
A second dilemma he described is the importance of human resources. The engineers and technicians who built and worked with the machines are those best qualified to restore them. We need these ‘committed lunatics’ said Swade, since restoring those machines is a highly skilled job. Without these volunteers museums could not afford the restoration of the machines. Unfortunately these people do not live forever, so sustainability is an important issue here. The big question is, can we train a new generation to work with these machines? Responding to a question from the audience about how to deal with the absence of spare machine parts, Swade states that this is not likely to happen; there are boxes of spare parts. He mentioned again human resources, they form a bigger risk; they could run out. We have to train new people. With this remark Doron Swade ended his presentation; all in all a fascinating introduction in IT heritage.