Artifact Cataloging and Preservation

This month the UT Videogame Archive is planning to begin work on the labeling and cataloging of collection artifacts. We have two primary goals for this project:

  1. Put a system in place that gives Briscoe Center archivists an easy way to track UTVA artifacts for individual research requests, exhibits, and internal use; and
  2. 2) establish guidelines for the housing and preservation of the materials.

In preparation for this project we have conducted research into the possible methods of labeling the consoles and their peripherals. We approached this research with two main questions: How do we attach labels to the consoles, directly apply an archival tag to the console, hanging tag, or place the tag in a polypropylene bag with the console itself? and How do your institutions catalog/process the artifacts?

Our first step involved contacting archives and museums who possess and display videogame related materials. The two institutions we contacted were The Computer History Museum and the University of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive.

The Computer History Museum recommended completely avoiding attaching a tag directly to the console or peripheral through the use of an adhesive. Without knowing the actual makeup of the plastics used during fabrication, using an adhesive on the console could potentially damage them over time. The Computer History Museum’s method of cataloging materials involves a homebrewed process wherein barcodes from a database are used to track items and their metadata.

The University of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive spoke mostly about their cataloging efforts for the videogames themselves and the changes currently underway within their cataloging documentation. Documentation which is being updated in preparation for the Resource Description and Access(RDA) from the Library of Congress and the best practices guide from the Online Audiovisual Catalogers(OLAC).

One conclusion of our research is that there is no hardware-specific standard or set of descriptive elements around which LAMs have coalesced. In researching potential cataloging and metadata categories, we spent time looking at the Media Archaeology Lab(MAL) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder. The metadata they record for their hardware and software appears to be the most detailed and comprehensive we have discovered so far, and our plan to incorporate these elements into our new item-level MODS metadata profile.

Rehousing and storing the artifacts represents the other half of this entire project. We investigated current literature on the preservation of plastics and consulted with Karen Pavelka, a conservator and lecturer at the University of Texas School of Information. With Karen’s input and the research we have done in regards to plastics, we have devised a plan to protect and house all of the consoles and associated peripherals within the UTVA.

Resources regarding preservation and plastics:

Computer and Video Game Preservation, Tulane University

Minnesota Historical Society Artifact Information

For the consoles and peripherals not in their original packaging this plan involves protecting each piece through the use of acid free paper, polypropylene bags, plastazote foam, and conventional banker’s boxes for storage. Our plan currently is to wrap the consoles in acid free paper then place them in polypropylene bags as the first step. These materials will serve to prevent exposure to any light source while still allowing for any potential off-gassing that might occur with the multitude of parts within each console. The polypropylene bags, also, offer us a container in which to place the archival tags for cataloging purposes rather than directly attaching a tag to the console itself. The Plastazote will enable us to prevent any movement by the consoles during transport and provide a suitable base for the consoles to sit on within the bankers boxes.

Check back with us next month as we discuss how the project is coming along!