One of the volunteers at the Museum of Computing with an early Soc Mk14 computer. © Museum of Computing
The Museum of Computing in Swindon is currently searching for a new home after Bath University decided to close the campus where it is currently housed.
Charting the history of computing from the abacus to the Blackberry, the museum has been located within the Swindon Campus of the University of Bath for the last five years, a mutually beneficial relationship that has meant the museum has had rent-free premises.
But now the university has decided to pull out of Swindon and a new home has to be found by the end July 2008, leaving the volunteers who look after the collection in limbo.
“We have approached the Science Museum at Wroughton, but there is some sort of doubt whether they can help us out at the moment,” said the museum’s Curator, Simon Webb. “The immediate problem is re-housing the collection. In terms of display area we can survive by putting on exhibitions elsewhere.”
The museum currently has an exhibition called Pong to Playstation - a history of the computer games console - which goes on tour next year. “The worst scenario is that we will go into storage but still exist in touring form at least until we can find a permanent home,” added Simon.
Children get to grips with an early computer game at the museum's Pong to Playstation exhibition. © Museum of Computing
Run entirely by volunteers, the museum goes back to the very earliest computing devices and right up to the computers and games consoles of the present day. Included in the collection are items dating from the turn of the century including comptometers, pin wheel calculators, slide rules and calculators. Thanks to the space donated by the museum the overheads in displaying these important pieces of technological history were small.
However, the continued survival and development of the museum rested on donations and modest sponsorship. Most recently Intel donated some money which helped see them through the last three years – during which time Simon and his team of volunteers have been working very hard to towards gaining official museum accreditation.
“We are now in a position to apply for accreditation but unfortunately because we haven’t got a home that is obviously in doubt,” added Simon. “It’s a terrible time, because we have all been working so hard to build ourselves up to become a credible museum, and accreditation would have opened up other revenue streams for us.”
“We have always battled against a lack of funding and just worked with whatever money we have had. The museum gets visitors from all over the world and it would be such a tragedy if we just disappear.”
Sir Clive Sinclair holds up an early calculator at the museum. © Museum of Computing
The museum, which has just launched its appeal for a new home, is looking for anything at the moment where they can move the collection come July. The building itself, the Oakfield Campus, is going back to Swindon Borough Council, who have yet to decide what they are going to do with it.
“We would dearly love Swindon Borough Council to get behind and support us and give somewhere,” added Simon. “We want to stay in Swindon. We think it is the best place for a computer museum because we have got a lot of IT here.” The museum also has a large number of volunteers based in the town and Simon is keen to keep that level of talent and enthusiasm.
If you think you can help or know somebody who can, get in touch with Simon Webb on 07939 582544 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org