His first love: Heartlands 2016 Arts Project
Several months ago, we had a request from someone who had looked at our collections online, seen a personal computer and wanted to look at it in person.
While that's not very different from other collections access requests, this person also asked if they could use the computer in the background of a film they were making.
Normally we don't allow our objects to be used as props, because the transaction is difficult to manage, especially without much warning, and is not really what the collection is intended for.
However, I asked for some more details about how this enquirer intended to use the computer. What came back was a really touching story.
Mehak is a refugee. He was born in Afghanistan and his father worked for an NGO (Non-Government Organisation).
Someone in the organisation gave his father an IBM computer, much like the one in our collection. Mehak managed to get it working using a car battery but could only manage 20 minutes of use at a time before the battery died. It was a marvel in the village in which he lived and all the villagers came to see him use it.
But the Taliban found out about the computer, raided his home and confiscated it. Later he managed to leave Afghanistan and come to Australia.
Mehak never saw that computer again, until he came into the Scienceworks Collection Store.
The IBM PC
Our technology collection is slightly different from the rest of the collection. Much of it was collected because of the item itself and how it fits into the history of technology development, rather than because of whom it belonged to or how it was operated.
This particular IBM PC was used by Museum staff in the early to mid-1990s. Once it was superseded, rather than disposing of it, it was offered to the collections.
It was acquired because it refers to a specific period of computing technology and was made by one of the biggest computing manufacturing companies. There is no other "history" behind it.
Yet Mehak’s story shows a very different side to such a piece of equipment. To him it was much more than just a computer.