What Happened to the Boston Computer Museum?
I was totally disappointed when I discovered that the Boston Computer Museum had closed. It was the site of one of my favorite Boston memories.
In June 1998, I was doing volunteer work at a community center in West Harlem. As part of a group project, I decided to take a large group of the kids from the center to Boston. The trip suddenly became super-exciting when I found out that we could do an overnight at The Computer Museum!
Needless to say, the kids had a rockin’ time. The sun was out, we took rides on the Boston Public Garden Swan Boats, our bus driver gave us a free tour of the city, and sleeping at the museum was beyond fun :).
Sadly, about a year later, the museum itself closed. It had been open for twenty years (1979-1999) and had lived in three different locations. The final location (the one we visited) was on Museum Wharf, where it shared a building with the Boston Children’s Museum.
So, what happened to the Boston Computer Museum?
Two things, actually…
1. By the mid-1990’s, the founders of the museum (Gordon and Gwen Bell) started to see California as a better place for collecting and preserving computer artifacts. As a result, the vast majority of the collection was moved to what is now called The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
2. The exhibits went to the Boston Science Museum and have merged into the museum’s Computing Revolution exhibition.
I think the most exciting legacy of the Boston Computer Museum, though, is the Computer Clubhouse. The Computer Clubhouse provides an opportunity for kids from underserved communities to gain skills and experience in the use of technology with good resources and adult mentors to support them.
The very first one was opened at The Computer Museum in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. It’s now one of at least 100 clubhouses (in 20 countries) known as The Intel Computer Clubhouse Network. The Computer Clubhouse moved to the Boston Science Museum along with The Computer Museum’s exhibits.