Collecting and conserving code: challenges and strategies
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The collection and conservation of code is still in its infancy in Australia. Even where coded items do exist, they are almost completely invisible within local cultural institutions and archives. Born-digital heritage faces unique risks - the degradation of hardware and software, obsolete operating systems, and intellectual property laws that restrict digital preservation activities. Too often, governments and cultural institutions either fail to recognise the precarious situation of historic code-based media, or are not able to respond in an appropriate fashion, due to a lack of resources, know-how, or sometimes, will. After outlining some of the challenges - for institutions and researchers - of developing collections of games and other software, this article will detail two current research initiatives. The Play It Again project is conducting research into the largely unknown histories of 1980s game development in Australia and New Zealand, ensuring that local titles are documented, preserved and make it into national collections. The Australasian Heritage Software Database seeks to: draw together existing knowledge about locally-developed software, marshal a network of supporters, and develop an enabling discourse that supports research into histories of software and digital preservation. Whilst these projects do not provide complete solutions by any means, a local discourse about the importance of collecting and conserving code is emerging.