Museums in the Computer Age:
meeting the challenge of technology

Robert L. Patrick

September 3, 2010

Abstract: Several years ago a volunteer group* at the Computer History Museum (Mountain View, CA) considered the challenge of presenting and explaining computer software. The resulting discussions led quickly to the idea of using a web site rather than traditional physical exhibits. Further investigation suggested a web site that featured a special online database containing a timeline that highlights milestones from the chosen subject and offers levels of detail and progressive presentations. I believe this approach will allow the patron time to absorb the material and any special vocabulary that might be involved, prior to a trip to the museum.

The approach appears to be applicable whenever a museum wishes to improve its presentation of technical material. In the following paper, I use personal transportation (autos) and computer software as two examples. Other technologies, and even a bit of general history, might also benefit.

* The group consisted of Burt Grad, Paul McJones, Bernard Peuto, and the author.