The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
- Wow—the possibilities are endless. The Victoria & Albert Museum has come up with a quilt pattern maker. I’m imagining artworks as quilts. Now I just need to learn how to sew . . . [via How about orange]
- Flickr photos are getting bigger and prettier thanks to a site overhaul. Double your Flickr Commons viewing pleasure!
- In DC for the Folklife Festival or just hanging out? Come to the Mall with your camera (or camera phone) and help digitize our museums in 3D (and win prizes) by snapping pictures of the Smithsonian museums!
- A webcomic just for archivists . . . [via Jennifer Wright]
- From US Soldiers patrolling the Berlin Wall in 1980 to cute dogs on polar expeditions in Antarctica, CriticalPast has a huge archive of historic video and images to browse through. [via Phil Bradley]
- Software engineers have literally been getting perspective from 18th century perspectival painters: they’re using paintings by Venetian painters from the 1700s to help them design wide-angle camera lenses that shoot in perspective. [via More intelligent life]
- Archives Outside gives a great list of practical tips for dating photographs (and no, I don’t mean your profile pic for OKCupid . . .).
- The Care and Feeding of a Mermaid (!) from State Library and Archives of Florida [via swissmiss]:
While some people seem to enjoy fantasizing about doomsday scenarios and the end of the “real” world, a recent piece on Ars Tehchnica’s website makes it clear that virtual worlds don’t last forever, either. By late this summer, librarians at the University of Illinois are planning to finish the archiving about a dozen early computer games—including Doom, Warcraft, Adventure, and the first fully interactive video game, MIT’s early 1960s Spacewar!—as part of a larger project called Preserving Virtual Worlds, that includes archivists at other academic institutions, as well.
While what characterizes these various games is their goal of producing compelling and interactive renditions of brave new worlds, according the Jerome McDonough, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, there are a host of other reasons to preserve what turn out to be surprisingly vulnerable cultural artifacts. The digital gaming industry employs hundreds of thousands of people who sell hundreds of millions of units to eager consumers eager to transport themselves to another place. And, with active gamers in two thirds of all American homes, each successful new product can become not only a money-making, but a revealing barometer of social and cultural phenomenon.
The challenge in saving these entertainments, however, is daunting. You’ve got to figure out how to run the software in its original form sometime in the future, minus the aging hardware, antique operating systems and outdated chip architecture these products were once dependent upon. The challenge for McDonough and his colleagues is to preserve the games and create new emulation software or virtualized platforms to play the games on.
That’s easier said than done. For the moment, the University of Illinois is building a repository of material based upon software developed by Hewlett Packard and MIT, while fellow archivists at the Stanford Digital Repository who are working off of another software platform altogether. The goal, for now, is to see how well either system handles the metadata involved if these games are to remain accessible and can survive long-term. Preserving Virtual World’s longer term goal is to provide the Library of Congress with guidelines on what a national collection policy for games ought to be. Of course, once that’s worked out yet another wave of real world problems, specifically copyright issues, may threaten to scuttle the effort. But for the moment, the most pressing challenge is to figure out how to keep fantasy alive.