There are not too many times when one gets to connect the former Hollywood action hero and current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the shrine to geekdom that is the UK Museum of Computing. So when one comes up you really do have to grab it and run. The connection being a famous Schwarzenegger quote. No, not "Gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman" or even "It's simple, if it jiggles, it's fat." I was thinking more of that classic Terminator line "I'll be back."
It was a little under a year ago that the Museum of Computing, the first such museum in the UK dedicated to the history of computers and computing, announced it was shutting up shop and effectively putting computer history into storage. The museum was launched back in 2003 and had managed to collect 2500 software items, 2000 hardware exhibits of which some 85 percent have been restored to full working order, 1500 books and manuals, and all of this on a shoestring budget of public donations. Something had to snap eventually, and it turned out to be the closure of the Oakfield Campus of the University of Bath where the museum was housed. I was particularly saddened by the closure, as one of my own prized possessions was exhibited at the museum: a pristine and limited edition gold-plated Sinclair Sovereign calculator from the seventies. True geeks can see a photo of it here.
So I was particularly pleased to learn this week that the Museum of Computing has found a new home and is re-opening in July. Swindon Borough Council has provided a three year lease on new premises in the town centre, close to the new Central Library and well served by public transport. The museum looks like being firmly back on the map at 6-7 Theatre Square, Swindon.
According to museum founder Jeremy Holt, who campaigned for thirteen years to get the Museum of Computing off the ground in 2002, this new location is ideal because "Our last venue in the University of Bath was very difficult to get to without a car. The Council’s new offer puts the Museum in the heart of the town in a prominent place near bus routes. It will be good for the town because the collection of 2,500 items demonstrating Britain’s role in the advances of technology has attracted worldwide interest. We attract 2000 visitors a year from over forty different countries. Our new home means we can attract many more local visitors." He adds "We’re also delighted the three year lease means the Museum can apply for professional accreditation by the Museums and Libraries Association."