My Year with Atari

My Year with Atari

Moving pallets off the semi-trailer, June 2014, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkLast year, I began processing the Atari Coin-Op Division records, a massive collection The Strong acquired in June 2014. These materials were previously held by a collector who purchased them in 2003 through a sealed-bid auction as Atari Games was liquidating its assets. Housed in four different storage facilities for 11 years, the materials arrived at the museum in boxes that filled 23 wooden pallets. Unloaded from a semi, the pallets went to the climate-controlled storage facility on the museum’s lower level. At that point in time, if a researcher requested to see any of the collection, it would have required searching for a needle in a haystack—or the equivalent in dozens of boxes on the pallets. For obvious reasons, that was not going to work. Thus, to make these materials accessible to researchers and the public and to ensure their long-term preservation, the museum needed to transfer the records to archival-quality storage containers and create a finding aid to assist interested researchers in understanding what the collection contained. And for the past year, that is precisely what I did.

Unprocessed Atari material on pallets, June 2014, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkWorking in the museum’s archives can be exciting work (especially when we find a rare document that allows a new insight or perspective into the past), but it can also be overwhelming at times. As I began processing the collection, the materials were scattered in different storage areas. There were several pallets of unorganized and oversized materials stored in old and unstable wooden map cases; two large rolling racks of loose material; 63 cartons of documents; 110 boxes of videotape (including VHS, Beta Cam, and UMatic), with only a partial clue of what content they stored; six boxes of floppy disks—including 8-inch floppy disks containing original source code to classic Atari arcade games; two computer towers; and several disintegrating boxes that contained rolled cabinet assembly drawings and artwork. As I surveyed the collection and considered how to make it accessible to the public, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

What Do Pinball and Jiminy Cricket Have in Common?

What Do Pinball and Jiminy Cricket Have in Common?

Before I came to The Strong, my exposure to pinball had been limited to the Barbie Shakin’ Pinball handheld video game that I received for Christmas 1995. I have definitely come a long way in my pinball knowledge since then, from learning the proper terms for components I never knew existed (pop bumpers are my…

Through the Artist’s Eyes

My love of movable books and of antique toys and games containing the richly colored chromolithographs of the last half of the 1800s brought me to The Strong’s Online Collections. I spent four days “oohing” and “ahhing” over the vast archive of images in the museum’s database before I discovered it was possible to view…

Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Knitting, quilting, and other domestic hobbies appear to have experienced a surge in popularity over the past two decades. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that they have experienced a surge in visibility thanks to social media and other online communities, as the qualities that attract people to domestic hobbies have remained constant for…

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

In the spring, guests attending The Strong’s Museum Secrets events got a behind-the-scenes look at The Strong’s conservation labs and learned about some of the strategies and techniques used to keep collections preserved. In the carousel care lab, guests heard about the history of the Elaine Wilson Carousel, the second largest artifact in the museum’s…

Dino-MITE!

Dino-MITE!

GIFT SHOP. Those two words might strike fear into the hearts of museum-going parents, but for children who have been bribed into good behavior, it is a beacon. Don’t disappear, don’t have a tantrum, don’t break anything—you may be rewarded with something from the museum’s gift shop. I grew up in Pittsburgh, where we had…

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

In November 2015, I came from my home in Turin, Italy, to spend a month at The Strong museum working on my research project, “The Meaning of Toys: Creating and Conveying Knowledge through Playful Artifacts.” I was honored to be granted a  Strong Research Fellowship that financed the first half of my stay.

Playmobil Play Sets

Playmobil Play Sets

In my previous blog titled I’d Like to Thank All the Little People, I described the profound impact that Fisher-Price’s Play Family had on my preschool years in the early 1970s. What I could not have realized during those formative years is that, almost 4,000 miles away in Zirndorf, Germany, another type of play set—Playmobil—was…

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Recently, debates about women and video games have been making the rounds. The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Colbert Report, for instance, have drawn attention to what it can be like for women in gaming communities. They explain that women face a lot of pushback and find themselves viewed as unwelcome visitors in…

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

The Strong not only collects playthings, but also acquires significant material related to the invention, manufacture, and use of those playthings. One of the museum’s treasures is the collection of games, game prototypes, and archives from noted American game inventor and historian, Sid Sackson. Sackson (1920–2002) is revered among inventors, collectors, and serious players for…