Collecting the present / digital code and collections


Sebastian Chan, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Australia , Aaron Cope, Mapzen, USA

Published paper: Collecting the present: digital code and collections

In this paper, Aaron Cope and Seb Chan deconstruct their acquisition of code and ‘living software’ for the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian’s design museum and explore its implications for the future of collecting and conserving ‘living’ systems.

Beginning in 2013 with the addition of an iPad app, Planetary, Cope and Chan have been working to update the museum’s collection to include born-digital examples of design. Unlike other museums the approach that Cope and Chan have taken is novel – and natively digital – in that it has collected the ‘final version of the ‘object’ along with earlier versions, change logs, and bug reports in a manner that enables their active exploration and use. Further, working with the donors/designers, the final code is open sourced. The original codebase now exists printed in OCR-A font on acid-free archival paper in a climate controlled storehouse – as well as on GitHub where it can be ‘read’, interacted with, and downloaded.

This paper explores issues around the acquisition process, legal rights, source code repositories as preservation tools, emulation vs hardware vs concept propagation, collectivised ownership and preservation, and the intersection of curatorial practice and digital workers in museums.

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