CU’s Media Archeology Lab Enables Visitors to Use Ancient Technology



The Media Archeology Lab allows visitors to play, create and experience all kinds of technologies from decades past.

BOULDER, Colorado – It doesn’t take much to step back in time – just a short drive to Boulder. Between the old houses on the University of Colorado campus is an old basement with even older artifacts inside.

“He has that basement smell,” Libi Striegl said with a laugh. “We’re kind of a hidden gem. We kind of fit in where they give us space.”

“Us” is Striegl and the thousands of technologies that surround it. The double CU Boulder graduate manages the Media Archeology Laboratory (MAL) on the campus.

“The Media Archeology Lab is a space for collecting and experimenting with all kinds of technologies from the past 12 decades,” said Striegl.

“Our main collection is personal computing, so the history of personal computers and mainly the 80s and 90s,” she said. “But we have everything from record players and Edison phonographs to cameras, game consoles, typewriters, on every level. Anything that could have been made or used to create media, we collect it for. have that practical experience from the past. ”

MAL was created by Dr. Lori Emerson. His work initially focused on software poetry, an artistic way of demonstrating how technology can be used differently from how it was originally intended.

At MAL, anyone who enters is encouraged to play with gadgets and discover new ways to use them.

Striegl hopes that students who visit the lab will be inspired by what they find and, in turn, find new ways to push the technology.

“We’re a very practical space, we don’t try to perfectly preserve things and we want people to touch and interact with things and that’s why we use the word laboratory because it’s an experimental space because we want people to try and shoot stuff that they’re not familiar with or want to rearrange stuff? Absolutely good, ”she explained.

“Touch it and hear it and smell it, and unfortunately some of them are old and you can feel them,” she said with a laugh. “But you get the whole body experience, and it’s different to seeing pictures or seeing someone else use it online.”

One October afternoon, a handful of CU students visited the lab for a classroom assignment. Most of them didn’t even know it existed. A group of five people gathered around an old Mac computer probably built before they were born. The team were playing Oregon Trail, trying to complete the trip before everyone died of dysentery.

Joey Miller was one of those students who watched excitedly.

“I would come back here tomorrow if I get the chance,” he said. “With how quickly technology is changing, I think it’s pretty cool to see where it started and how much it has changed over the years. It really is a good way to appreciate all that we have now. This is how I see it. “

Striegl said comments like Miller’s explain exactly why the facility is still working. She hopes that visitors to the lab will leave with a little more appreciation for the story and a lot more enthusiasm for what lies ahead.

“The past must be lived so that the present can be seen. That’s the slogan,” she said. “It’s important to have practical experience of the past so that you can understand the future, and the ways we’re going, and the ways we can maybe change what we’re doing with technology, and the way we move forward brazenly. “

The Media Archeology Lab is open to the public on the CU Boulder campus. The establishment has opening hours Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Visitors can also make an appointment outside of these hours on the MAL website.

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