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Inaugural exhibit opens Computing Museum at UD

Paul Amer, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Computer and Information Sciences, displays a 15-inch floppy disk used to store voice and music recordings used in conjunction with the University’s PLATO system, circa 1979. The disk is part of the Computing Museum’s collection.

2:29 p.m., Nov. 29, 2006--About 80 members of the UD community turned out for the inaugural exhibition of the Computing Museum at the University of Delaware, held Tuesday, Nov. 21, in the foyer of Smith Hall.

Containing hardware and software items from the past, including an 8-inch floppy disk and a 1920's Morse Code transmitter capable of transmitting about 10 bits of information per second, the exhibition also provides historical perspectives on major computing discoveries and transitions.

Tom Apple, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, officially welcomed visitors to the exhibit, which included a pair of student-created sculptures.

The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Museum Studies and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Museum curators include Lori Pollock, professor of computer and information sciences, and Paul Amer, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Computer and Information Sciences, and Chandra Reedy, professor of museum studies.

“We wanted to highlight the fact that the Department of Computer and Information Sciences has moved into Smith Hall,” Amer said. “We had been located in several buildings, but now the entire department is located in Smith Hall. To complement this move, we wanted to establish a computer science presence here with an exhibition and art work in the lobby.”

The Computing Museum at the University of Delaware is funded by a Unidel Transformation Grant from the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Dean Apple had called for proposals for Unidel Transformation Grants,” Amer said. “Our goal was to get some of our students involved in transforming their experience here at UD.”

Staff contributors to the exhibit include Janet Gardner Broske, curator, University Museums.

Student contributors include junior Lauren Bradley and sophomore Davina Kuh Jakobi, both art conservation and art history majors, and juniors Stephen Mahoney, a computer science major, Yana Novikova, a computer science junior, and Rachel Tannen, an anthropology major.

Guests at the opening reception check out ‘Reconnect,’ grad student Ronald Longsdorf’s six-foot-plus steel and resin vertical column of Macintosh and PC parts.
Pollock described the project involving people from different disciplines as having gone “wonderfully well” and said the biggest surprise was just how much work would be required to catalog and install the exhibition.

“When we first visited with Jan Broske, she really opened our eyes to the whole museum experience process,” Pollock said. “When we were making the labels, Chandra had us boil down the descriptions into words that nonspecialists or people outside the discipline would understand.”

For Reedy, the collaboration between students and staff from different units who would not ordinarily work together also showcases the evolution of computer technology as part of the historical process from an anthropological perspective.

“I have an interest in past technologies,” Reedy said. “The Computing Museum at the University of Delaware represents the history of the transition of different technologies over time, and it is nice that we had an anthropology student involved in the project.”

A pair of sculptures created by students in the College of Arts and Sciences were unveiled at the exhibit--Siliconous Graphicous, made of steel and mortar, by junior Charles Mahley, and Reconnect, graduate student Ronald Longsdorf's six-foot-plus steel and resin vertical column of Macintosh and PC parts cloaked in a configuration of connecting cables.

“As the collection grew, we had these piles of computer equipment. I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing, but David Meyer [assistant professor of art] came up with two students who were really interested in doing the sculptures,” Reedy said. “ I love the sculptures.”

Being involved in the exhibition and creation of the sculptures was an opportunity for both students to address issues of layout and function while working with their peers from other disciplines, Meyer said.

“Artists work with different tools, and the computer also is a tool,” Meyer said. “This is a nice way for different academic areas to come together. Hopefully it will bring students together and get them to start a debate about art.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Duane Perry

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