The Media Archaeology Lab couldn’t have picked a better motto: “The past must be lived so that the present can be seen.” MAL is a digital media research lab that also keeps solid footing in the past by experimenting with, let’s say, less than cutting-edge tech. The lab uses fully functional vintage technology to answer questions about what the future of media might look like.
Located at the University of Colorado at Boulder, MAL preserves and maintains all kinds of historically relevant media and technology, from a replica Apple I to the Commodore 64 to the Osborne 1, the world’s first “portable” computer (it weighs 25 pounds). It also houses audio equipment, video game consoles, typewriters, microfiche, printed matter, and a collection of audio and visual materials ranging from a 1914 Edison Diamond Disc recording of “Medley of American War Songs” to a cassette tape of R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People” from 1992.
Never fear, though, the lab treats its cassettes better than anyone ever did in the format’s heyday; every item in the collection is in working order. Every piece of equipment is able to be used at any time. The lab is part museum and part experimental playground for researchers and artists looking to understand the history and future of the media landscape. MAL hosts artist and scholar residencies and exhibitions, and visitors to the museum are encouraged to turn on, plug in, and play.
Know Before You Go
The best way to visit is to check the website for visiting hours. Appointments can also be made by contacting the MAL’s email address.