HacDC Museum

From HacDC Wiki

Has anyone been to the Museum of Useful things in Cambridge? Unfortunately it's now closed, but it used to be a combined store and museum, with old and interesting gadgets displayed in cases and above head level around the store. It's the first thing that came to mind when Ben proposed a HacDC museum. The Museum of Useful Things still exists online, but primarily as a store. I couldn't find much on their site about the things in their collection, but there are a few pages (Example).

One thing that I liked about the physical store is that they often displayed old and new versions of the same product (with the new version available to buy). For example, this staple-free stapler was displayed under a model that looked more like one of these guys.

Sounds like a really interesting concept. I'd love to aim for a more expansive display of artifacts, space permitting, and if the Museum is wildly successful, perhaps its own space someday in the distant future. The idea of a store is intriguing, as well. Perhaps as HacDC grows, there could be something akin to the 826 Valencia model, where a fun storefront (They have a Pirate Store, a superhero store, and a Bigfoot Research Institute) is the gateway to a spectacular hacking/teaching space and proceeds are used to subsidize the programs of HacDC. We're a long way from that, but it's something to consider. Ben 19:10, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Name Controversy

There's been some debate about whether to name the collection after our first large benefactor, and whether to identify objects in the collection as having been donated by certain individuals. A suggestion has been made by Derek Cooper to contact the benefactor's family to verify permission to use the name, but to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation, I think it would be wise to see if the group is in favor of naming a part of the collection after the benefactor before asking for permission.

Those in favor of naming the collection after the benefactor, pending permission from his heirs

  • Ben 15:43, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Q 11:49, 12 June 2008 (EST)
  • Sarah 16:23, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Katie 16:49, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Dcooper 00:47, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
  • DLotts 03:04, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Those opposed to naming the collection after the benefactor

  • Bjorn 06:44, 13 June 2008 (UTC) - Anonymity was a good idea. We can have full disclosure of what is really too great a story to keep under raps. It keeps things impersonal, and I don't see what anyone has to gain from non-anonymous entanglement. Besides, I have other items I'd contribute, and I'd expect this sort of donation will become a regular occurrence - lets just keep things neutral. What Mrs. X did was very kind, but lets keep the exchange as agreed upon initially.
I think that whenever possible, we should honor the wishes of donors (or their families, when applicable), so whatever we decide about identifying or not identifying this benefactor shouldn't determine what we do with future donations. If you were to contribute items and request anonymity, I don't see any problem with granting it. I would also disagree that removing the personal items would mean keeping a great story under wraps. We don't really have a story--we have some fun speculations about how the items in the boxes might have been used, with no way of substantiating them. While it's fun to bat around amusing theories, I personally wouldn't publicize this personal "story" even if the donor remained anonymous. Sarah 11:36, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Myself 18:27, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Discussion Relating to Name Controversy

  • I think we can be selective about what we put in the "official" museum collection, but there is other interesting, amusing (embarrassing?) stuff that was in the boxes that has been photographed and put up on Flickr--and more that has yet to be photographed, no doubt. Even if it doesn't end up in the museum, it wouldn't be difficult for someone to go to HacDC's Flickr group and see the unofficial stuff mixed in with the official. Given the email from the widow, I do think it would be nice to name a collection or something after this guy, but if we do that, then I will take down my pictures of anything that I think might embarrass his family. Sarah 16:23, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I see the collection breaking into four categories:
  1. Innocent, unidentifiable items: Telephones, test gear. These could be exhibited with a name, with no trouble at all.
  2. Innocent, identifiable items: Patent notebooks, research he was involved in. Even if partially redacted, someone who did a little digging could connect these with him. But by itself, that would do no harm.
  3. Risque or embarrassing items: Some of these are interesting but I wouldn't want to connect them with the family name. [Could we have some clarification on the nature of these items? I.e., what about them is risque or potentially embarrassing? Katie 16:18, 14 June 2008 (UTC)]
  4. Dangerous items: I won't discuss these further in a public forum.

It seems to me that any combination of 1, 2, and 3 would work, since if someone wants to do the digging and figure out who printed those fart jokes, the "damage" is minimal. It'd be better to avoid mixing 2 and 3, if we wish to play it safe in that regard. But 4 absolutely cannot appear with 2. And honestly, for our own safety, I don't think 4 should appear or be mentioned at all. If you disagree, please do so in person. In general, I think our best course is (1 & 3), with redaction of 3 if necessary. We're under no obligation to name anything, and some stuff in 3 is really neat. If we want to pay tribute to the widow's generosity, we could do so in a way not connected with the collection. (Just list her as a donor, or something.) Myself 18:27, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

  • We can avoid reputation/embarrassment if we simply call it the ___ ___ Museum, and then write in the "About" section that the man started our collection with a few fine pieces. We don't have to say what things came from him unless we want to. Let people assume that we got the embarrassing items from elsewhere. Also, it gives us some instant legitimacy and validity. It's a small compensation for the incorrect but popular sense of the verb "hack" that I all love and hate.

Or how about another compromise: The Patent Examiner's Collection, by HacDC.

Also, after my experience with startupDC, I don't underestimate what the Washington post is willing to feature. This could be a Post story one day. What would you like on your Post article?

Also, what would our contemporaries do? Do you think NYCResister would jump at the opportunity? Would they write an article about him with photo's? I started to Google his name the other day. There are a few tidbits, including someone that thinks that he should be shot. I'll stop there to spike your curiosity. :)

DLotts 03:04, 14 June 2008 (UTC)