Last year, I began processing the Atari Coin-Op Division records, a massive collection The Strong acquired in June 2014. These materials were previously held by a collector who purchased them in 2003 through a sealed-bid auction as Atari Games was liquidating its assets. Housed in four different storage facilities for 11 years, the materials arrived at the museum in boxes that filled 23 wooden pallets. Unloaded from a semi, the pallets went to the climate-controlled storage facility on the museum’s lower level. At that point in time, if a researcher requested to see any of the collection, it would have required searching for a needle in a haystack—or the equivalent in dozens of boxes on the pallets. For obvious reasons, that was not going to work. Thus, to make these materials accessible to researchers and the public and to ensure their long-term preservation, the museum needed to transfer the records to archival-quality storage containers and create a finding aid to assist interested researchers in understanding what the collection contained. And for the past year, that is precisely what I did.
Working in the museum’s archives can be exciting work (especially when we find a rare document that allows a new insight or perspective into the past), but it can also be overwhelming at times. As I began processing the collection, the materials were scattered in different storage areas. There were several pallets of unorganized and oversized materials stored in old and unstable wooden map cases; two large rolling racks of loose material; 63 cartons of documents; 110 boxes of videotape (including VHS, Beta Cam, and UMatic), with only a partial clue of what content they stored; six boxes of floppy disks—including 8-inch floppy disks containing original source code to classic Atari arcade games; two computer towers; and several disintegrating boxes that contained rolled cabinet assembly drawings and artwork. As I surveyed the collection and considered how to make it accessible to the public, I knew I had my work cut out for me.