Star Wars and Atari: Documentation of a Classic Arcade Game

Star Wars and Atari: Documentation of a Classic Arcade Game

Star Wars artwork, The Strong, Rochester NYEarlier this year, I joined The Strong to perform a truly exciting job: process the recently acquired Atari Coin-Op Division Collection. I loved Atari as a child, so I jumped at the chance to work firsthand on its records. My first exposure to video games, like many others born in the early 1980s, came through classic Atari games such as Pole Position, Asteroids, and Super Breakout. I was too young to experience these titles at the local arcade, but I spent countless hours at home on my family’s Atari 2600 playing these games. At the time, the rudimentary graphics didn’t matter. Their major appeal, as Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell once said in regard to what made a great game, was that they were “easy to learn, yet difficult to master.”

Bushnell’s phrase came to mind as I discovered that The Strong’s Atari collection materials were easy to appreciate but took time to master. The collection is massive (it arrived at the museum on 22 pallets!) so my first task was creating an inventory to gain intellectual control of the materials. Star Wars project outline,1982, The Strong, Rochester, New YorkI also looked for a semblance of original order, which archivists always strive to preserve. Fortunately, Atari had applied an organizational structure, which will be maintained and ultimately reflected in the finding aid that researchers will consult to understand the scope of the collection’s resources. While performing the inventory, I found that many of the files were organized by game. Types of game documentation include original cabinet artwork, assembly drawings, focus group reports, market research, memos, production schedules, financial and legal documents, and technical information. So far, I have found that the collection includes documentation on the majority of Atari’s arcade games.

What Were They Thinking? Playthings to Ponder

What Were They Thinking? Playthings to Ponder

Earlier this spring, the curators at The Strong gathered up items from the collections for a display we call “What Were They Thinking?” Although no one ever sets out to make a bad toy, the items exhibited included a number of toys, games, and dolls that make us wonder just what their designers and manufacturers…

The First Jigsaw Puzzle

The First Jigsaw Puzzle

Preparation for the new Toy Halls of Fame is in full swing at The Strong. Part of the preparation for the exhibit’s opening in September 2015 involves assessing objects to make sure that they can be safely displayed in a way that will preserve the artifacts while allowing guests to enjoy them during their visits….

Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

I’m a huge fan of novelty items. Currently, my office is adorned with miniature rubber ducks, librarian action figures, small stuffed animals, and other cute-funny-quirky trinkets. These make great conversation pieces and delight others, as well as amuse me. I’ve found that “novelty” is often used as a catch-all term for miscellaneous items that don’t…

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

WARNING!!!! Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end! These pages contain many different adventures you can go on…. The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose! For 36 years these opening lines have beckoned booklovers and reluctant readers alike to become part of…

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to…

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Staff at The Strong passed around several emails this week noting the passing of Gary Dahl, inventor of the Pet Rock, a wildly popular fad from the mid-1970s. In 1975 Dahl, a California advertising man, dreamed up the notion of a Pet Rock and shipped it to a San Francisco gift show that August. His…

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong inducted Scrabble in 2004. Since then we’ve made efforts to collect many different versions of the famous “scrambled word game.” Oldest Visit The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame web page for Scrabble, and you’ll learn that unemployed architect Alfred M. Butts invented the game during…

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

When I leave The Strong this week after almost seven years, a shiny, new collections manager will take the helm. I feel like the well-worn toy Margery Williams describes in The Velveteen Rabbit who becomes Real when the Boy loves him and when the nursery magic Fairy sets him free. Except for the trials of…

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than…