Museum guests and donors often inquire about what exactly happens to materials that ICHEG acquires for its collections. As ICHEG’s Acquisitions Cataloger, I handle and research electronic game-related artifacts, and I’m always pleased to answer that question.
Before an artifact becomes an official part of The Strong’s collections, it must be researched thoroughly and entered into our database system, known as Argus. Take for example, Myst III: Exile, one of the many games recently donated by 1Up. I begin with the most basic information, which I take from the game case. It tells me that this is a PlayStation 2 game developed by Presto Studios and published by Ubisoft in 2002, and that the Electronic Software Ratings Board rated it “E for Everyone”. I also add that Myst III falls into the “adventure” genre.
Next I include a physical description of the object. I note that the game plays on a DVD-ROM, which is stored in a rectangular plastic case along with an instruction manual. I add that the game is in “used—good” condition and exhibits no visible defects. At a later date, an ICHEG co-op student will test the game and procure screen captures as part of the ongoing mission to preserve games long after the DVD deteriorates and its data can no longer be read.
Lastly, depending upon the historical significance of the artifact, I may write an essay that answers such questions as why it is part of our collection, what impact it had on the gaming industry, and whether it is particularly rare or unique. ICHEG’s Online Collections site includes many of these essays.
Once in Argus, the item officially becomes a part of The Strong’s collections with its own unique number. I then give the game to a set of volunteers who photograph it and write the catalog number on the object using a special pen with acid-free ink. After this, I place the game either in one of ICHEG’s storage rooms or on display in the National Museum of Play. I then enter the game’s new location in Argus. For example, Myst III currently resides in the ICHEG Lab, an area in the National Museum of Play that is often used by researchers interested in game design or history.
Almost all ICHEG materials are available for study. Some artifacts are incorporated in the eGame Revolution exhibit, where guests both examine items in cases and play arcade games. Others are in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, where students, teachers, and other researchers often study materials pertinent to their papers, articles, or dissertations.
We hope everyone interested in video games can visit ICHEG at The Strong in person and see our ICHEG collections in one of these venues, but if you cannot, then please check out our collections online.