Student Exhibit Explores Computing History @CMU

Student Exhibit Explores Computing History at CMU

An exhibit on the Helix of Gates Hall represents a unique collaboration between the University Libraries, School of Computer Science and the History Department at Carnegie Mellon. “Computing_CMU.LOG” was created by the students of Fall 2019 undergraduate course 79-390 History Workshop: Computer Science, a research seminar with a focus on the history of computers and computing on campus, and utilizes resources from the University Archives. 

"As an historian, few things are more gratifying than observing students engage first-hand with elements of the past to which they can directly relate,” said Andrew McGee, University Libraries’ CLIR Fellow in History of Science and Computing, who created and instructed the course with Associate Professor Christopher Phillips in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Preparing the final exhibit – essentially selecting key elements researched during the course of the semester and curating those findings into a compelling narrative for the general public – was the designated capstone assignment for the course.”

Senior Librarian Sue Collins, Assistant Archivist Kate Barbera, Librarian Jessica Benner and CLIR Fellow Andrew McGee at the Computing_CMU.LOG exhibit. McGee co-created the course with Collins, Barbera and Benner providing resources and expertise.

The student-designed exhibit consists of an 18 foot long vinyl poster adhered to a portion of the central rotunda of the Gates and Hillman Centers, between the fourth and fifth floors of the pedestrian ramp. A three-minute video loop highlighting the physical transformation of the campus since the 1950s is also on display, being projected at both the top and bottom of the Helix. Digital elements utilizing StoryMaps software can be found on the course website.

This multimedia exhibit was made possible through the combined work of HOST @ CMU, a cross-campus group of faculty and staff invested in promoting the history of science, technology, and information on campus, through research initiatives, library collections, campus events, and public outreach. The exhibit is currently ongoing. 

Students from Course 79-390 pose with their creation.