For many of us in the games industry the week between Christmas and New Year's is one of the few quiet times in the year. Console studios shut down, and many digital games operate on thin customer support.
One of the things that people do with the end of the year break is to resolve to finally clear out the attic or the basement to open up enough space for that treadmill or Magnusson Device or whatever.
There's actually an international museum that wants those old boxes (and floppies and CD's and not-old-at-all digital files) of stuff, and you don't have to catalog it, analyze it or write a long document justifying it before you hand it over to experienced curators.
For the last several years I've served as a collections advisor to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) at The Strong museum complex in Rochester, New York. They have the largest collection of video games and historical games materials in the world, and I've also donated my professional papers to be archived at ICHEG.
Housed in the same complex is one of the largest collections of board games, RPG's and paper games in the world, which to me forms one great continuum when combined with the work we do in electronic games.
One of the sad parts of being a collections advisor is the number of times I talk to someone about preserving papers, drawings or advertising and marketing materials from their career and they tell me, "I wish you'd asked me five years ago. We cleared out the garage and threw out lots of stuff."
I've also heard, "I had a lot of amazing digital imagery and copies of game proposals from the early days of [famous game], but then that hard drive died and, well, that was the end of that."
Fortunately ICHEG has preserved a lot of critical historical materials, including design documents and historical items from Ralph Baer, Joel Billings, Bill Budge, Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry), Doug Carlston, Her Interactive, Jerry Lawson. Jordan Mechner, Microsoft Game Studios, John Romero, Ken and Roberta Williams, Will Wright, myself and many others.
They also have an array of original coin-op machines going back to Space War (along with a lab to keep them operating), and the largest collection of Japanese video games of any museum in the world.
What You Can Do
If you have materials (either physical items or digital documents, artwork etc.) from your career that you'd hate to see thrown away that document some aspect of the development of the industry (including the dramatic changes of the last few years), please email me via ddaglow at gmail.
The curators preserve the game design and development side of the industry as well as the marketing and sales side, which often gets overlooked. As an international museum they also chronicle the different paths that games history has taken in Europe, Asia and elsewhere as well as in North America.
I'd be happy to answer questions about my experience as an ICHEG donor, and to introduce you to one of the museum curators to see about preserving your slice of our history.