Tag Archives: Preservation

Proof-of-Concept: Shadowing

In the last post, I described stakeholder interviews and some of the main issues drawn from those conversations. I ended that post by mentioning some steps taken while designing the checkout system to address these issues. In this post, I would like to discuss further a second method used in the design process: shadowing Briscoe staff.

During my time here at the Briscoe, I was able to shadow both staff members at the Reference desk and Pages as they reshelved materials and serviced researcher requests. I wanted to see 1) how the Briscoe operates during normal business hours; 2) what resources staff use to help locate materials, and 3) any potential pain points for the checkout system. In addition, I underwent a training session for newly-hired Briscoe pages to get a better understanding of their workflows and procedures.

If you recall an earlier blog post, shadowing can allow one to see and understand the Briscoe’s social context. The Reference Desk is the first point of contact for researchers in the Reading Room and the first place they turn should something go wrong with the UTVA hardware. And pages will likely be the ones to retrieve and assemble gaming systems.

I’ll start by talking about some of the experiences from the reference desk. As noted, the reference desk is the first point of contact for guests while in the Reading Room. How can we help when UTVA-related issues arise? Game systems are similar to A/V equipment found in the Reading Room. The Briscoe has dedicated stations for researchers to interact with phonographs, DVDs, VHSs, microfilm, and other media. Written instructions and guidelines have been prepared by Briscoe staff and are available at these stations for quick reference. I mentioned in the last post about taking digital images for identification purposes and we also plan to write a set of console-specific instructions for the test runs. As we look towards the future for the UTVA, similar instructions for each console will hopefully be generated. At the same time, the A/V equipment is non-collection material and, as such, remains in the Reading Room. The UTVA hardware is collection material and will have to be stored at the end of the day and then reshelved.

One researcher interaction raises an interesting issue for UTVA materials. A guest had a question about proper citations after coming across an unlabeled folder within a labeled box. This represents a granularity question: How close can a citation direct a person to a resource? The consoles and peripherals will likely be described and cataloged at an item level. But how to cite actual gameplay? Emulation research represents a popular use for consoles and a researcher might need to be able to cite the gaming experience: the artifacts plus the activity. We are working on a tentative citation format.

The Briscoe allows guests to bring in cameras and take pictures provided they sign a camera agreement. With respect to emulation research, I can imagine a researcher wanting to record gameplay. This consideration raises copyright issues. Do fair use exceptions apply to video games used for research? Do copyright protections apply to the computer code? Or the visual presentation of the program? Or both at the same time? Or both separately? Fortunately, this lies outside the scope of my project.

Shadowing the pages and participating in page training helped me fully appreciate the need for clearly written procedures, complete floor-by-floor indices, and labeled navigational maps. I plan on creating written instructions for console setup and troubleshooting suggestions to accompany the digital images and the generalized step-by-step instructions for checkout.

Proof-of-Concept: Stakeholder Interviews

In the last post, I introduced the proof-of-concept checkout system and briefly described the methodology used to create it. In this post, I would like to discuss more thoroughly the first technique: stakeholder interviews.

There are several benefits to be obtained from touching base with relevant parties at the Briscoe, especially those parties that may deal directly with UTVA collections. First, the interviews bring together multiple institutional perspectives. Since we are attempting to create a checkout system that can untether a collection from a single staff member, it behooves us to be proactive about identifying and possibly addressing issues common throughout the archives.

Second, the literature that I read regarding archival reference strongly emphasizes that collection knowledge is a key to providing high quality archival reference service. How can we diffuse collection and institutional knowledge? How to diffuse knowledge about the UTVA for staff not directly involved with accessioning and processing the actual materials? One component of a solution is establishing documentation practices for creating accurate and comprehensive access tools: finding aids, inventory lists, internal navigational guides, etc. To this end, Janice Ruth suggests that archival reference staff be involved in the creation of these tools. These interviews build on and extend this idea to include more people. Since Ms. Meyerson, UTVA interns, and I work with these materials daily, what can we do to make access more accessible?

The legacy hardware in my project present a unique set of challenges. Use of a gaming console for emulation research requires other components (peripherals) to render properly the game. In our circumstances, these peripherals are also collection materials. And, in order to provide an authentic gaming experience for a researcher, we need access to non-collection material, e.g., a TV. Finally, the gaming system’s components have to be gathered and assembled. I cannot remember when I last saw an RF Switch Box before this project.

So what did I do? I interviewed these different stakeholders at the Briscoe: Exhibits, Reference, Pages, and Public Services. And what did we learn?

Access for Briscoe staff has two components. One has to be able to find an object both intellectually via finding aids, inventory lists, etc  and physically within the building via shelf lists, navigational maps, etc. When an object’s location changes, there are multiple opportunities for ‘error creep.’ How does documentation get updated? Who is responsible for updating? And when these documents are updated, do all relevant actors have access to them? For example, if hardware from the UTVA is pulled for an exhibit, it essentially goes ‘dark’ for the length of the exhibit. Briscoe staff and potential researchers would need to know that certain items are inaccessible. This example helps to illustrate that the documentation resources are ‘living’ documents and will grow over time. As I previously mentioned in the post “Plastics: Preservation and Conservation”, this again reminds me of PREMIS: hardware as objects, location changes as events, and documentation ‘updaters’ as agents.

At the same time, UTVA documentation may become unwieldy. When pages retrieve boxes, pages often are unaware of their contents. Consoles and related peripherals strongly suggest item level control and description which, in turn, generates more documentation.

And some legacy gaming systems harken back to the 1970s and 1980s. How do we provide technical assistance in the Reading Room should a problem arise? Are some of the materials too resource intensive and thus will not be paged without prior notice? How do we respond appropriately to an unannounced guest requesting UTVA hardware? What does a legitimate researcher request look like? Sound like? Developing the checkout system will also help the Briscoe fine tune UTVA access policies.

Finally, how did we apply our interviews when initially designing the checkout system? We described and cataloged at an item level including delineating the relationships between a console and its associated peripherals. Matt, the previous UTVA intern, created a UTVA Master Hardware Inventory list and there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between an item and its inventory number. This relationship is unbreakable which allows the item’s location to be updated as needed. And we took a lot of digital images…images of hardware, of non-collection materials, systems being assembled, locations within the Briscoe. The respective inventory numbers serve double duty as a naming convention for images, files, documents, and folders for staff members. These resources were placed in locations already in use by Briscoe staff, emblazoned with the title “UTVA Hardware”.

In later posts, I will discuss some additional documentation created to help service UTVA hardware requests.

Stay tuned!

Proof-of-Concept Checkout System

In this post, I would like to introduce the second major component of my capstone project: the proof-of concept checkout system.

After spending time researching and learning about ways to stabilize the collections and catalog the materials, the time came to apply this knowledge and create a proof-of-concept checkout system/workflow to accommodate in-reading room research requests as well as other uses of UTVA materials.

I intend simply for this blog post to serve as a short methods section, in which I describe some of the techniques we used to create our check-out system/workflow. I participated in stakeholder interviews, shadowed reference staff and pages, compiled previous use cases of UTVA materials, and, finally, crafted an imagined research/user scenario to ‘watch’ the process from start to finish. In subsequent blog posts, I will go into greater detail about each technique.

The stakeholder interviews allowed us to consider UTVA hardware from different perspectives within the Briscoe Center and to bring input from other members into the system/workflow, as these members may interact with the UTVA in the future. Ms. Meyerson and I spoke with “Exhibits”, “Reference”, and “Public Services” at the Briscoe. We wished to see the archives through their eyes.

Second, I shadowed both reference staff and the pages at the Briscoe. The plan was to see the Briscoe in action during a normal day. I spent time at the Reference Desk and followed pages while they reshelved items and retrieved other items. I was even ‘trained’ as a page so I could experience paging first hand. I was interested in observing the staff when bringing resources to bear when servicing research requests.

Third, I looked into the brief history of the UTVA and compiled previous use cases. The UTVA has been used in exhibits and in both undergraduate and graduate classes here at the University of Texas. These use cases help demonstrate the collections’ value as primary resources and can give clues about potential uses in the future.

In a loose sense, I am conducting an ethnographic study at the Briscoe, trying to understand its social context.

Finally, I am combining the lessons gleaned from these experiences in creating an imagined research/use case in which a hypothetical research team requests a specific gaming console. By watching the gaming console as it moves through the proposed workflow, we will better understand how we can provide better access.

Lit Review: Consolidated List of Resources

In this post, I would like to present a list of resources that I have used and found helpful during this project. The resources will be separated into different categories. My many thanks to the various authors and researchers. Note: all links were checked on November 16, 2015.

Videogame Preservation:

Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper
Written by the Game Preservation Special Interest Group, International Game Developers Association and published in March 2009, this white paper can be described as a call to action as the authors address the problems of game preservation.

Digital Preservation of Console Video Games by Mark Guttenbrunner
In this paper published in October of 2007, Guttenbrunner writes about digital preservation of video games in light of hardware failure and obsolescence. He discusses various digital preservation strategies including the “museum approach”, maintaining the original software and hardware. He lists the UNESCO Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage.

Grand Theft Archive by Paul Gooding & Melissa Terras
In this 2008 article, the authors describe a quantitative analysis of the state of computer game preservation. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the authors argue for the use of ‘less academic’ sources of information like Wikipedia, message boards, and blogs.

Playing History with Games: Steps Towards Historical Archives of Computer Gaming by Henry Lowood
Lowood, Stanford’s lead on the Preserving Virtual Worlds project, presented this paper at the Electronic Media Group annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Lowood makes the case for preserving video games and lists recommendations for cultural heritage institutions with video game collections.

Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (UNESCO)
Authored by the National Library of Australia for UNESCO and published in 2003, the goal for creating these guidelines was “to improve access to digital heritage for all the world’s peoples.” Similar to the Guttenbrunner paper, the guidelines describe and evaluate digital preservation strategies including technological preservation.

Preservation of the Video Game by Allison Hudgins
In this 2011 article, the author discusses the problem of and need to preserve video games and the gaming experience. Video games require “complex, obsolete hardware, which faces its own preservation challenges.”

Collecting and Preserving Videogames and Their Related Materials: A Review of Current Practice, Game-Related Archives and Research Projects by Megan Winget & Caitlin Murray
In this 2008 article, the authors provide a review of then-current efforts underway to preserve video game and discuss four digital preservation strategies including emulation.

Preserving Videogames for Posterity by David Watson
Multimedia Information & Technology, May 2012, Vol. 38, Issue 2, p. 30-31
In this short resource, the author touches upon both hardware preservation and why it is only a short-term strategy for video preservation. This article was one of the first I encountered that mentioned deterioration of the plastics in hardware casings.

Preserving Virtual Worlds
This collaborative research project was conducted as part of Preserving Creative America, an initiative of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress. The project investigated issues surrounding the preservation of video games.

“How Do I Preserve an Unused Computer?” – SuperUser Community Blog
This resource is an example of research-by-analogy. The blog authors and its reading community talk about different environmental hazards that can negatively impact a computer and its internal components.

Vintage Computing and Gaming Blog by Benj Edwards
Mr. Edwards runs a blog about “computer, video game, and technology history” and frequently writes about retrogaming.

Plastics: Identification, Preservation, Conservation

Tulane University Libraries – Preservation Resources: Computer and Video Game Preservation
This resource presents information with respect to preserving the physical carrier of video games, such as plastics, and the digital information the carrier contains.

Plastics Historical Society
The Plastics Historical Society was formed in 1986 “to draw attention to the heritage of the plastics industry and to celebrate all things plastic.” One can find information about caring for, conserving, and identifying plastics.

POPART
Preservation of Plastic ARtefacts research project was initiated by the European Commission in 2008 to develop “a strategy for the preventive conservation and maintenance of modern material artefacts.” Most of the project’s main results are found in this resource. Perhaps the best find during the literature review.

Getty Conservation Institute
The mission of the Getty Conservation Institute includes advancing “conservation practice in the visual arts, broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites.” Their newsletter, Conservation Perspectives, covers the Institute’s projects and activities related to conservation practices.

Metadata and Cataloging

GAMECIP – GAme MEtadata and CItation Project
This resource is the digital presence for the GAMECIP project, a project that investigated “metadata needs and citation practices surrounding computer games in institutional collections.” The resource provides links to different projects and publications. Their metadata schema can be found on the Open Metadata Registry.

GAMECIP – Hardware Platforms (Spin off project through Stanford University)
One of GAMECIP’s goals is to create controlled vocabularies for different aspects of computer games. This spin-off project developed a controlled vocabulary for platforms.

Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC)
OLAC is an organization for catalogers concerned with non print materials including digital. This resource is their online presence with links to the group’s publications and training guides.

Best Practices for Cataloging Video Games Using RDA and MARC21
These best practices were created by GAMECIP and OLAC to help cultural heritage institutions catalog video games uniformly as RDA was rolled out by the Library of Congress.

Archival Reference

Archival Intelligence and User Expertise by Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres
The American Archivist, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring – Summer, 2003), pp. 51 – 78
The authors conducted interviews of archival users to generate a model of researcher expertise. They use this model to discuss ways curatorial and reference archivists can help a potential guest transition from an archival novice to an expert.

Archival Reference Knowledge by Wendy Duff, Elizabeth Yakel, Helen Tibbo
The American Archivist, Vol. 76, No.1, (Spring – Summer 2013), pp. 68-94.
The authors interviewed archival users and surveyed archival staff to investigate the types of knowledge needed to be a proficient reference archivist.

Educating the Reference Archivist by Janice Ruth
The American Archivist, Vol. 51, No. 3, Summer 1988, pp. 266 – 276
Ruth discusses two ways to increase researcher use of collections – improved finding aids (and other navigational documentation) and increased reference staff expertise and ways to enhance them both.

For Love of the Game: An Ethnographic Analysis of Archival Reference Work by Ciaran Trace
Archives and Manuscripts 34 (1) (May 2006): 124 – 143
Trace conducts an ethnographic study at an archives to help archivists better understand archival reference and the interaction between researcher and reference staff.

‘You’re a Guide Rather than an Expert’: Archival Reference from an Archivist’s Point of View by Wendy Duff & Allyson Fox
Journal of the Society of Archivists, Vol. 27, No. 2, October 2006, 129 – 153.
The authors conducted interviews with reference archivists in an effort to understand barriers to providing reference services and the skills and knowledge needed for quality reference interactions with guests.

Plastics: Preservation and Conservation

In my last post, I discussed techniques one can use to identify the plastics in the casings of the consoles. The three plastics commonly used in the casings are likely polypropylene, impact styrene, or ABS. For example, when I did a cursory visual examination of a few consoles from more recent video game generations (5th, 1993 – 2003), I found ABS stamped into the plastic casing. We may not be as lucky when dealing with older systems. Once we have an idea of the plastic, we can move onto concerns about preservation, storage, and conservation.

While  numerous resources are available online, for this post, I wanted to mention three specifically that helped me. We have already met the Plastics Historical Society  and POPART from the last post. The third source is the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The GCI publishes a newsletter called Conservation Perspectives and their Spring 2014 issue was dedicated solely to plastics.

The most common environmental degradation factors for plastics include light, UV radiation, oxygen, water/moisture, heat, and pollutants. If possible, store the consoles and peripherals in a cool, dry, and dark place with stable humidity. In an earlier post, Matt described a rehousing program for consoles and peripherals lacking their original packaging.

2010_231_00063_001_img_01

For loose items not yet rehoused, they are in a room that receives very little light.

Some of the sources also mention storing items in a room with some ventilation and warn against storing items in completely sealed containers. At the same time, you may have noticed that the console in the above picture is……in a completely sealed polypropylene bag. We felt that sealing the bags is preferred for two reasons. First, the importance of maintaining the connection between the item and its identification card outweighs the risk of reducing air flow, especially when considering materials moving from storage to a reading room and back again. And, second, water/moisture can cause severe problems for the more delicate components of a console’s motherboard. It is possible that the electronic components fail before the plastic does.

It is also possible to put mechanical stress on plastic objects when being stored or being handled. Even though the consoles are composite objects, it is possible to cause damage by taking the object apart. As much as possible, we plan to try to support objects in their natural shape while maintaining their integrity.

The sources suggest yearly inspections to check on the objects. As the consoles were originally designed to be played, these inspections should probably include turning the consoles on and checking game play. This reminds me of PREMIS: consoles as objects, inspections as events, and inspectors as agents.

While the plastics probably used in the casings are relatively inert and stable, there is one caveat. The wire sheaths inside the consoles may be composed with PVC plastic, one of the ‘problem’ plastics as defined by the Plastics Historical Society. PVC is designed to be more flexible and, as a result, is less stable and, overtime, may off gas some harmful chemicals. Although the GCI notes that little scientific investigation has been done, one could add an adsorber, like activated carbon, to the storage container/bag to adsorb volatile and/or toxic gases. pH indicators can be placed in the storage container to check for the presence of harmful acidic gases.

Ageless oxygen scavengers could also be added to storage to provide an oxygen free(-ish) environment or perhaps silica packets to adsorb water, formaldehyde, and acetic acid. If used, these adsorbers would need to be replaced on a consistent basis.

In the end, sometimes doing nothing is the best chance for doing no harm. Blessed are those consoles in their original packaging!

2010_231_00060_img_01

Plastics: Identification

In my last post, I addressed the seeming lack of literature that speaks to the preservation of video game hardware. But not all is lost! A second topic of the literature review is an investigation of the materials which make up the hardware, namely the plastics.

The first component of the preservation of plastics is the identification of the specific plastic that comprises the casing of the console. Certain plastics can be more ‘problematic’ than others and require different preservation and conservation methods. My first suggestion is to examine the console thoroughly and see if any identifying marks are visible. If a visual inspection is inconclusive, I was able to find two resources that might help us in the identification process.

The first resource, the Plastics Historical Society, was identified by Matt in his March post and comes to us through Tulane University Libraries. Among other resources, the Society provides a table that correlates dates of manufacture with probable plastics used in the manufacturing process. Our test collection, the Billy Cain Collection, contains consoles that range from the 2nd to the 6th generations of video games (around 1976 to 2005). Our collection’s hardware likely falls entirely within the category “1965 Onwards” in the table provided by the Plastics Historical Society. This category mentions 12 different types of plastic commonly used. Another resource I located allows even further refinement.

Vintage Computing and Gaming, founded in 2005 and written by Benj Edwards, is a “blog about computer, video game, and technology history.” On January 7th, 2007, Mr. Edwards published a great post titled “Why Super Nintendos Lose Their Color: Plastic Discoloration in Classic Machines.” During his investigation, Mr. Edwards reached out to a plastics expert at the University of Massachusetts, the late Dr. Rudolph D. Deanin, who said this: “The plastics most commonly used to make the structural cases for electronic equipment are polypropylene, impact styrene, and ABS [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene].” Each of these three plastics are indeed among the 12 listed by the Plastics Historical Society. This purported commonality among console casings is fortunate because institutions with consoles from multiple decades can likely store the collections together in the same environment.

Now I know what you are asking: What if I really really want to know the identity of a particular plastic in my collection? Is there a way to identify the plastic without harming the artifact? Why, yes, yes there is. And this allows me to introduce my greatest find during the entire literature review: POPART – Preservation of Plastic ARTefacts in museum collections.

plastic-duck

This project was initiated in 2008 by the European Commission to develop a strategy for the preventive conservation and maintenance of modern material artefacts and most of their results were published in 2012. This is a fabulous resource for any cultural heritage institution that has plastic objects in its collections and I enthusiastically recommend investigating their site and resources. One priority for the group was finding techniques for the non-destructive identification/characterization of plastics.

One such technique is near-infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy, a spectroscopic method that uses the near-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to measure the absorption of materials. The resultant absorption spectra depend on the chemical composition of the samples. By comparing to a database of characterized materials, it is possible to identify positively the components in the hardware casing. Or at least have a really good guess!

Please check back next time for more on the preservation of plastics!

Capstone Project – Literature Review

This week, I would like to share some results from my literature review of video game hardware preservation.

As I dove into the literature, I quickly experienced a source of frustration with respect to video game hardware preservation: much of the available literature speaks primarily to the preservation of the games themselves, i.e., the software. The preservation of consoles and associated peripherals is rarely discussed directly except as a temporary stop-gap measure in software preservation.

Described by Mark Guttenbrunner as the “Museum Approach,” technology preservation is listed by UNESCO’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage  as a “short term strategy” only. Software emulation and/or migration receive the most attention for maintaining access to the games. While important, this raises two challenges. First, concerns from proprietary formats and copyright protections (which emulation may or may not violate) argue in favor for hardware maintenance. Second, the focus on software often overlooks the need for archives like the UTVA and the Department of Special Collections at Stanford which houses the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection in the History of Microcomputing  to preserve the physical artifacts as objects of curation in and of themselves. In his 2004 talk at the Electronic Media Group annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Henry Lowood describes computer games as “software, as technology, and as performances.” Technology preservation can help to provide access to authentic performances by allowing one to play, for example, an original Vectrex, coupling the artifact to the activity.

The dearth of literature specific to console/hardware preservation is hardly surprising. Video game preservation must first overcome the same bias that once affected movies and television shows. Viewed by some as mere entertainment, a case must be made that video games are worth preserving at all. Another issue comes from the game industry itself. The newest console systems receive the lion’s share of attention from consumers. It makes little economic sense for companies like Nintendo to continually offer support for “obsolete” systems. With little to no official support and no new consoles being manufactured, the University of Michigan Computer & Video Game Archive (CVGA), for example, preserves its older systems by making in-house repairs, by replacing broken parts, or by acquiring new consoles through secondary markets or donations. One can quickly see why hardware preservation is labeled by UNESCO as short-term only. With time, both replacement items and the expertise necessary to effect repairs on legacy consoles will cease to be available.

At the same time, there exist avid fan communities for legacy game systems like the Atari 2600, and these groups are responsible for a great deal of information found online. While positioned outside of normal academic publishing circles, these experts can be valuable allies for cultural heritage institutions. And in Grand Theft Archive, Gooding and Terras utilized numerous sources of information including “Internet message boards, mailing lists, forums, Wikis, and blogs” (24) in their study of computer game preservation. All aspects of the knowing community likely have something to offer to collection curators.

Please check back next time for more on the literature review!

UT Video Game Hardware Conservation Capstone Project

This month, I am excited to report on my University of Texas School of Information capstone project that has grown out of work started last March at the University of Texas Videogame Archive by the then-UTVA intern, Matt Cepeda. My capstone focuses on both the preservation of and access to UTVA hardware, specifically gaming consoles and peripherals, such as controllers. It is hoped that the project’s components can be folded into future work regarding the entire archival life-cycle of video game collections, from accession to preservation and storage to labeling and cataloging to use by patrons.

Before describing my capstone, I must say a big “Thank You” to Matt for his work last semester that got my project off the ground. He provided numerous research leads that have served as spring boards for my literature review. Additionally, I was able to meet Matt in August for some last minute tips and advice. If you are reading this…Thank you very much Matt!

My project consists primarily of two major components. First, I have been conducting a literature review investigating preservation and conservation as related to video game hardware, including an in-depth look at the hardware materials, e.g. the plastics which comprise the hardware casing. The literature review also includes identifying other cultural heritage institutions that possess videogame materials as potential partners in this field and examining access policies and other ‘best practices’.

Second, I am working with Jessica Meyerson, Digital Archivist at the Brisoce Center, on creating a proof-of-concept check-out system/workflow to accommodate in-reading room research requests for UTVA hardware. We selected the Billy Cain Papers as the test collection because it contains videogame consoles that span many generations. Part thought experiment, part trial-and-error, we are brainstorming potential use cases for the UTVA and conducting stakeholder interviews with other members of the Briscoe including the reference and exhibition staff. For example, in the immediate future, I hope to shadow the reference staff as they serve researcher requests and retrieve items from holdings. With permission of course!

During the course of the semester, I will be providing updates about the project’s progress. I encourage you to check back with us!

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!