Building “The Time Machine”

Four-hundred days after committing to open a technology museum, I’m checking in.


On January 8th, 2013, I gave a talk at the Reading Geek Night about my life-long dream to open a museum dedicated to computer technology.

I’ve always been a collector — taking old technology and spending hours of my time painstakingly restoring it to fresh-out-of-the-factory condition — but in recent years I’d started to feel almost bad about doing that. Why keep things to myself, for my own amusement, when I could share them with the world?

The response to my talk that night was amazing. People not only loved the idea of opening a new museum — one dedicated to everything being fully working and usable as it was the day it was made — but they started donating and spreading the word.

After a summer of plotting and scheming, The Time Machine was born.

On October 24th last year I launched The Time Machine project into the world. After much deliberation and twitter polling the name, I set out my goals:

  1. I will open a physical technology museum in the south west of England dedicated to fully working, fully usable old technology.
  2. It will be a community space for hacking, talks, learning, educating, and anything related to the preservation of technology through the ages.
  3. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get there.
  4. I will need help and support from people, be it knowledge, time, or donations.

In the 410 days since I launched The Time Machine project, complete with pink-and-white Wordpress website, I’ve made progress in some areas and not in others.

What I’ve learned

Opening a museum is hard. Really hard. The biggest factor of all has been time. I work a really intense job (that I love) and, while I get plenty of down time, I don’t get the chance to go out to other museums, talk to other people doing similar things, and meet with the plethora of people who can help with fundraising, paperwork, and the like.

Fundraising itself is a complex beast. I spent good couple of months working out potential locations, extrapolating running costs, staffing costs, looking at options for how it could be funded and where money would come from — and it’s not an easy question to answer.

I’ve also done a lot of research on what kind of things draw people to museums. The hands-on approach I’m determined to take is a big pull, sure, but how do I ensure a fresh supply of great experiences for people to keep coming back to? There’s a lot more to museums than meets the eye.

What I need now

I’m continuing to accept donations on a fairly regular basis, and still enjoy spending a weekend or so a month doing restoration work. It’s a huge passion of mine, and the more people who can donate old stuff they’ve got laying around — complete systems, laptops, consoles, phones, and handhelds— the more we’ll have to excite people with when we finally open. If you’re ever thinking of throwing something out or have something you’d like to donate— please, do get in touch.

What I need most, however, is support. Right now I’m on my own with this project, and while I’ve got plenty of people voicing support, I could really use help from anyone who is as passionate about the idea as I am. Someone with some experience in fundraising and community projects would be massively helpful — but a general “partner in crime” in any sense I feel will be essential moving forward. There’s only so much I can do alone.

The Next 400 Days

By the end of 2015, I want to have a clear timeframe for opening the museum. This is going to mean making decisions on location and scale, as well as plans for funding and commitment from other parties in making The Time Machine a reality.

I’d also like to have at least doubled the collection in that time. I may not have been able to restore everything by then — but the more unique and fascinating exhibits we have to open with, the better.

I’m in the process of launching a new website for the project — the holding page for which is at www.ttmuk.org — and I’ll use that as a platform to raise awareness and, hopefully, my own knowledge and resources to help make the dream a reality.

If you — or anyone you kn0w — is passionate about preserving old technology and bringing it to life in a new, meaningful way, then please get in touch.

Whether it’s donations, support, encouragement, or wanting to get directly involved, my inbox is always open.

Here’s to the future — and, indeed, the past — coming together.

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