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Collecting Software: A New Challenge for Archives & Museums

TitleCollecting Software: A New Challenge for Archives & Museums
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsBearman, D.
Secondary TitleArchives and Museum Informatics Technical Reports
Pages80 pp
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedPittsburgh
TypeTechnical Report
ISSN Number1042-1459
Keywordsarchives, challenges, collecting, computerization, computers, criteria, digitization, extant documentation, informatics, museums, newsletter, planning, policy formulatio, software, software characteristics, software history, technical report, users, uses

From the Executive Summary:

"For forty years software has been an important creative product of our society. Its intellectual. social, economic and political impact has shaped the contemporary world, yet the community of culture preserving institutions has failed to document its evolution. There is not a single archive or museum in the world devoted to software and no substantial collecting of software history has taken place in other repositories although software is being written every day which defines the way in which we work. Bureaucracies, including governments, are entirely dependent upon software to faithfully execute the policies (including laws and regulations) which they have established. yet archives. those gaurdians of bureaucratic accountability, don't retain software. Popular culture and the arts have both been transformed by software, but museums have yet to collect it. To archives and museums, software is still alien and insubstantial.

This report examines the history of software and its influences on our society and it addresses the barriers to collecting software as a cultural record. It identifies essential policy distinctions which administrators will need to consider between software collections and other collections of archives and museums. It examines the ways in which software can best be described, made available to researchers, and exhibited and it proposes a framework for a descriptive vocabulary. Further, it identifies the physical requirements and management issues associated with the retention and storage, retrieval and use, of software in cultural repositories.

An earlier draft of this report was prepared for the Computer Museum in Boston as the framework for a discussion with staff of the Smithsonian Institution and the Charles Babbage Institute on establishing a national software collecting consortium. The report, therefore, considers approaches to multi-institutional collecting issues such as documentation strategies and collection policies, cooperative acquisitions and information sharing. The body of the report addresses five fundamental questions about such a program: What is the domain of a software archive? What is the mission of such a program? What policies are required to implement a software archive? Who are its users and what are its uses? What procedures are needed to establish a software archive?"

Citation Key10393