Another Beyond-the-Box Program of
Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making
Perspectives on Our History Through Technology

Travel in Time & Space:
Reflections on
International Museum

Exhibit Catalog

May 2004 - August 13, 2004
Benjamin Rosenthal Library / Queens College - CUNY
2nd Floor display cases - outside RO 230 / Auditorium

Zenith Laptop - circa late 1980s / CLick to Enlarge

The mission of Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making is to enhance the educational experience at Queens College through an interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of technology development.    

To accomplish this, Voices of Old Technology collects, preserves, documents, displays and interprets selected technologies and related materials.  The collection emphasizes, but is not limited to, office and educational technology. Related items collected from Queens College and other CUNY sources highlight the history of the College and the University as well.  Our exhibit catalogs are designed for the web, and a click on a catalog image provides an enlargement. [More About Voices of Old Technology] [Previous Exhibits]

This exhibit is in the display cases outside Rosenthal 230, the auditorium on the 2nd floor of the Library.  To get there, go to the Library's cafe area and take the elevator or the stairs down to the 2nd floor.

Introductory Panel  / Separate Display Case

Introductory Panel / Click to Enlarge

According to the web site of the American Association of Museums, International Museum Day has been around since 1977:

...In 1977, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), during its 12th General Assembly in Leningrad and Moscow, adopted a resolution designating May 18 as International Museum Day. Delegates to the assembly felt the resolution would bolster recognition for museums and provide a reminder to governments and the general public of the very special role museums play in preserving cultural heritage.

The United States first celebrated the day when President Jimmy Carter designated May 18, 1979 as National Museum Day. Since then, city councils and governors across the country have issued proclamations declaring May 18 as International Museum Day for their communities or states...

In order to share with you some of our reflections on International Museum Day, and encourage you in your own reflections, we have gone beyond our own primary focus on technology and have:

We travel in time and space when we visit museums and galleries and when we come upon a variety of displays, art and artifacts wherever they may be.  Admission to some museums can be expensive for many of our students --- but some advertise student discounts.  And museums around the world aren't easy for us all to get to.  While it isn't quite the same, our friendly home computer can give us a quick taste of a variety of museums such as the Louvre in Paris or the Robben Island Museum in South Africa.  In addition, many galleries and other types of displays and exhibits are free.

Forget for the moment whatever "museum" means to you - especially if it means musty, dark and dull.  Wherever you go, if you pay attention, look around, and keep your eyes open, you will be delighted by a sometimes surprising array of wondrous artistic and historic items - not always in a formal museum - to appreciate and understand!  Some very pleasant museum surprises may be related to an exhibit topic that goes beyond what we normally expect in a specific museum.  Examples for us have included the following past exhibits: Vietnam - Journeys of Body, Mind and Spirit at New York's Museum of Natural History (, The Bicycle Takes Off 1865-1900: From Boneshaker to Boom at the New York Hall of Science ( -- information on the traveling show from another museum's web site at; and the ongoing Transatlantic Slavery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum  in Liverpool, England ( .

As you think about the inventions, events, art, and structures that some of the exhibits, museums and commemorative events bring to our attention, don't forget about the people who were a part of the history of the items on display --- for example, those who built the bridge or the pyramid, designed the fashions, created the new art form, and those who made and used the jewelry or the drinking vessels.  The exhibits can be more interesting and valuable if they encourage us to think about the people --- the good and the not so good, as well as what made for good times and what led us into times fraught with peril.

This can add important and intriguing dimensions to our study that are full of parallels and contrasts, and to a better understanding of humanity. An honest look at history makes one thing certain: people of every race, religion, nationality and part of the globe have an equal ownership of creativity and the talent to develop new technology and new art forms, as well as of many other qualities (both positive and negative) that we observe in some of the exhibits.

Please forgive us if we have not included your favorite museum or exhibit, or one from your native country, in this display.  We haven't been able to include many of our own favorites.  The space is just too small to include everything we'd like to include. We have, however, included in this catalog references to a few displays at the College that are not in the exhibit itself. Our intention is to emphasize a global approach.  We will change some of the items in this display from time to time in order to broaden the regional representation. 

Zenith Laptop
Circa Late 1980s
Donated by QC Office of Information Technology

This laptop computer was used in the Queens College Academic Computer Center (ACC) in the late 1980s.  A few laptops of the model preceding this one were part of a small scale laptop loan program for faculty development.  It was one of the earliest laptops. Above the function keys rests a WordPerfect keyboard template; there was no mouse, and commands had to be issued from the keyboard using the function keys and <shift>,
<alt> or <ctrl>.

Is this a museum piece?  Does it become a museum piece when it is described and explained, and not sitting in the trash?  Does it become a museum piece if it is displayed with items such as those below? Or can it stand on its own?

Part of a Brochure for the Rosenthal Library Laptop Loan Program
Current Program - 2004

Many IBM Think Pads with Windows XP are available for loan to students at the Reserve Desk (2nd FLoor) of the Rosenthal Library.  Information is available on the web at
. These seem high-tech to us today, in comparison with the Zenith Laptop of the late 1980s.  What will replace these in a few years?

Is it a Laptop? circa mid 1800s - Image of a Young Abraham Lincoln Writing on a Fire Shovel
D. H. Montgomery, The Beginner's American History, The Athenaeum Press, Ginn and Company, Boston, 1920, page 226.

This history book has an illustration titled "Abe and the Fire-Shovel" and a description of young Abe Lincoln's use of the fire-shovel for writing.  Looks like a laptop to us! From the text:
... Part of his evenings he spent in writing and ciphering.  Thomas Lincoln was so poor that he could seldom afford to buy paper and pens for his son, so the boy had to get on without them.  He used to take the back of the broad wooden fire-shovel to write on and a piece of charcoal for a pencil. When he had covered it with words or with sums in arithmetic, he would shave it off clean and begin over again.  If Abe's father complained that the shovel was getting thin, the boy would go out into the woods, cut down a tree, and make a new one; for as long as the woods lasted, fire-shovels and furniture were cheap...
This process seems related to the rewriteable wax tablets described below.

Is it a Laptop? circa 480 B.C. - Picture of Art on an Athenian Wine Cup
From an Exhibit Supplement for "Coming of Age in Ancient Greece - Images of Childhood From the Classical Past," page 31.
A Traveling Exhibition Organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College
At the Onassis Cultural Center in New York City from January 22, 2004 - April 15, 2004

In the exhibit materials, this wine cup referred to as "Youth Writing" is
identified as circa 480 B.C.  From the notes:
...Another medium for writing - one that could be conveniently reused  - was the wax tablet and stylus.  In the tondo of an Athenian wine cup... we see a schoolboy hard at work, using his stylus to incise letters into his open wax tablet (that just coincidently looks like today's laptop computer)...
We're not the only ones who see images of modern technology in strange places! 

A similar rewriteable wax process was used in early wax cylinder Dictaphones that had three different machines as part of the package --- one machine that was for dictation, one for transcribing, and one for scraping the wax so the cylinder could be reused.  See a summary of the history of Dictaphones, with information about Alexander Graham Bell, at
See also perspectives on the history of Thomas Edison's related inventions at .

Left Side /Wall Mounted Display Case --- Queens College and Local

Left Side / Wall Mounted Display Case - click to enlarge

Most of the items in this case are related to museums, exhibits, displays that are either at the College or relatively local.

Please forgive us if we have not included your favorite museum or exhibit, or one from your native country, in this display.  We haven't been able to include many of our own favorites.  The space is just too small to include everything we'd like to include.  Our intention however is to emphasize a global approach.  We will change some of the items in this display from time to time in order to broaden the regional representation.

The Louis Armstrong House and Archives - (archives: Rosenthal Library - 3rd floor, main entry area / house: Corona)

Information Sheet With Hours and Location of the Louis Armstrong House

Armstrong Archives Brochures:  "Louis Armstrong at Queens College"  and "Armstrong 101: A Beginner's Guide"

The Armstrong House and Archives were celebrated
in 1998 to a packed house in Colden Center, as part of the Federal Government's "Save America's Treasures" initiative, in a program featuring First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Displays - (2nd floor Science Building Corridors)
Self-Guided Tour Handout
Picture of one display case in the Science Building

Some of the departments in the Science Building have corridor displays.  Geology / Earth and Environmental Sciences has an extensive display that could easily be a museum, in the 2nd floor corridor.  This is their catalog, and it's available near the displays.

Many other academic departments have a variety of collections and displays.

Physics Department Displays - (2nd floor Science Building Corridor)

Pictures of the Poster titled "Nobel Prizes for Physics - 1989"

Ever wonder how atomic clocks work?  See one of the Physics Department's posters (also on the 2nd floor of the Science Building).

Student Art /
Queens College
Photo of an example of student art in Klapper Hall display cases, May 2004
Handout announcing a student art show in the Student Union - May 3 and 4, 2004

Student art is often on display in cases in Klapper Hall, in the Student Gallery in Klapper Hall, sometimes in the Student Union, and sometimes in the Cafeteria.

Barham Rotunda Display Cases (
Rosenthal Library - 3rd floor, across from the Circulation Desk)
(not shown in the exhibit)

All exhibit and display areas in the Rosenthal Library, as well as views from the Library windows, are beautiful.  The Barham Rotunda is especially striking.

Queens College Art Center (
Rosenthal Library - 6th floor)
2003 - 2004 Season Information
Current Show Information

According to the Art Center's website:
The Queens College Art Center brings to the College and the community exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, presenting the works of both emerging and established artists in diverse media.  These exhibitions support the educational and cultural goals of Queens College.
Rosenthal Library - Other Exhibit Areas
(not shown)

Of course if in the future you're looking around for exhibits, don't forget to visit THIS exhibit area, on the 2nd floor section outside the auditorium - RO 230.

Among the other exhibit and display areas in Rosenthal Library are the following:
- The mural on the wall in the other section of the 2nd floor, near the Reading Room elevators.  The mural is called Procession: A Mural of Immigration in Queens.

Rosenthal Library - Mural

- Table-type display cases near the elevator on the 4th and 5th floors.  The current display shows new art books from the 6th floor Art Library.

1937 Night - November 5, 1997 - Queens College's 60th Anniversary
Program for the evening's festivities

Many of us at the College enjoy learning about the history of the College and about different times.  1937 night was one of three fantastic celebrations over a period of three years.

Godwin Ternbach Museum - (Klapper Hall, 4th floor)

Poster for the current exhibit  "Memory and History"
Picture of part of the installation

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum in Klapper Hall is unique in the City University system. Several of CUNY's colleges have galleries and collections, but no other can boast of such comprehensive art and archaeological holdings. It was the good fortune of Queens College that Professor Frances Godwin of the Art Department and art conservator Joseph Ternbach met when Mr. Ternbach's daughter Ingeborg Ternbach Sonn, Art History student at the College, introduced them in the 1950s. The College Art Collection was established in 1957 under the stewardship of the Paul Klapper Library Department, and was housed and exhibited in the Library. In 1981 the College formally established the Museum to care for the art collection. The story of the birth and growth of this museum is an exciting one.

Dedication Plaque - (Jefferson Hall, 1st floor, next to the elevator)

The current location of this  plaque is
next to the elevator on the first floor of Jefferson Hall.  Mayor LaGuardia was here! We have seen pictures of this plaque near the beautiful steps that don't exist anymore - on the quadrangle side of Jefferson Hall, the former H Building.   In the College's earliest days, H Building was home to auditorium, the gym, and the library.  This plaque is just one item of the College's rich history that is still around for all to see and enjoy.

Jefferson Hall - Salute to Alumni - (Jefferson Hall, 1st floor)
(not shown)

If you're in Jefferson Hall on the first floor, looking at the plaque above, turn around and look at the three cases (2 in the hall and 1 in the Welcome Center) called "Salute to Alumni."

Related Courses - Queens College
Museum Studies: Art Department - Art History 310 (undergraduate) and Art 700 (graduate) / description from the Queens College Bulletins

Certificate in Archives, Records Management & Preservation: Graduate School of Library and Information Systems / program brochure;

Bowne House and work by the Queens College Anthropology Department
Information Sheet about the public program at the Queens Borough Library - Flushing Library Auditorium - February 10, 2004
Q Magazine May 2004 with cover story on Professor James Moore and work at the Bowne House

Queens College faculty and students have made significant contributions to the documentation and understanding of local history through their work at the Bowne House. 
The QC press release about this in Spring 2004 is on the web at

Student Discounts for Museums
CUNY Cultural Passport information - from section on web for all CUNY students
CUNY portal "supported link" to discounted membership in the NYC Historical Society

Queens Historical Society - Flushing
Spring 2004 Newsletter

The Queens Historical Society has its home in one of the local historic houses in Flushing.  Many Queens alums and retirees including Lee Cogan and Stan Cogan
are leaders of the Society’s historic preservation, research and program efforts.  There are also other local historical societies.

Examples of Current Preservation Issues in Queens
Flushing Airport - College Point - photo
Lewis Latimer House - Flushing - photo
RKO Keith Theater - Flushing - photo

These local historic structures have received recent attention from residents and the press.  See for more information.

Strait-Line  Plumb Bob / Chalk Line
markings on item: Straight Line Products-Inc., Costa Mesa Calif  Pat No 2589500

This plumb bob / chalk line is similar to some of the newer versions.  How do we estimate a date of its manufacture?  Would you throw this out if you came across it?

From the US Patent Office web site / patent number search at
"Combined Chalk Line Box and Plumb Bob" Patented March 18, 1952, filed September 1949 by R. K. Landon et. al. 

The information on the item itself shows the state with its state abbreviation
Calif, not its US Postal Code abbreviation CA, and has no zip code, which means that it might have been manufactured before the standard became the 2-letter state codes, without periods (some of the history of this STANDARD is at, and before zip codes became standard (1960s - more information at  The font and the material may also give us clues.

Museum of Television and Radio - Manhattan
Images from their web site

Queens College alum Robert M. Batscha was President of the Museum of Television and Radio from November 1981 until his death in 2003. The Museum’s website quotes Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Chair of their Board of Trustees:

… Through his extraordinary vision and deep commitment he significantly expanded the Museum’s collection of radio and television programs and advertisements, oversaw the building of the Museum’s two facilities in New York and Los Angeles and secured the Museum’s place as a renowned institution respected around the world…

Museum of the Moving Image - Queens
Vintage 1945 TV Camera Pedestal on Loan from Queens College
Photos of the exhibit and the exhibit text

According to the exhibit text, the
pedestal is on extended loan from Queens College. Where was it used on campus? By whom? How?

Related Booklets
Museum's of New York - Visit a Museum Today
New York Gallery Guide
Institute of Museum and Library Services - Status of Technology and Digitization in the Nation's Museums and Libraries - 2002 Report
Metropolitan Historic Structures Assn - Glimpses of Old New York Houses and Historic Sites
Oral History for the Local Historical Society

Commemorative Mugs and Plastic Water Bottle
Mug: Darien, Ct. Fire Department's 100th Anniversary / 1895 - 1995
Mug: The Ephemera Society's 20th Anniversary - March 3 - 5, 2000, Old Greenwich, Ct. / 1980 - 2000;
Water Bottle: American Association of Museums (AAM) - throw away water bottle with special label; provided at AAM Conference May 2004

Historic events
and milestones, as well as the history of companies and organizations, are very easily documented and promoted today on items such as mugs, water bottles, and t-shirts. Are these potential museum pieces?

Right Side /Wall Mounted Display Case --- Farther Afield

Right Side Wall Mounted Case / click to enlarge

Most of the items in this case are related to museums, exhibits and displays farther away - out of state and out of the country.

Please forgive us if we have not included your favorite museum or exhibit, or one from your native country, in this display.  We haven't been able to include many of our own favorites.  The space is just too small to include everything we'd like to include.  Our intention however is to emphasize a global approach.  We will change some of the items in this display from time to time in order to broaden the regional representation.

Vienna, Austria - Ferris Wheel / Wien Riesenrad
Postcard in the shape of this historic ferris wheel

Berlin, Germany - Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Postcard of the Wall
Part of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum brochure

Berlin, Germany - German Technical Museum
Postcard commemorating the 100th anniversary of the trolley that's portrayed on the card

Philadelphia, Pa - Displays at Medical College of Pennsylvania
Pictures of some of their corridor and room displays showing the history of Female Medical College, which became Woman's Medical College, and later became Medical College of Pennsylvania

ENIAC Museum, University of Pennsylvania

Commemorative Punch Card, 50th Anniversary of "The Birth of the Information Age"; 1946 -1996

California - Roy Rogers / Dale Evans Museum (Note: this museum has moved)
Photo and admission ticket - 2002 - "Happy Trails to You"

California - Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

"The Transit of Venus" June 8, 2004
Harvard University's Collection of Scientific Instruments
Article "Harvard History of Science Museum to Observe Transit of Venus," Harvard Colloquy, Spring 2004.
Heading from a  NASA web page titled "James Cook and the Transit of Venus"

We enjoy being able to look at related old and new technologies together.  We reflect on the the people who developed the old technology, what it made possible at the time, the people who used the old technology and developed it into what it is today, and the future.  

Imagine seeing the June 8, 2004 Transit of Venus as offered by Harvard --- viewed with modern equipment as well as with equipment used by Harvard to see the Transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769!  The Harvard Crimson's report of this event is at;  it begins "What could bring together a collection of faculty, historical scientific instruments, a band and a crowd of several hundred enthusiasts at 5 a.m.?" See some of the advance publicity at, on page 11 of the Spring 2004 issue of Harvard Colloquy.  Imagine watching in 1769! 

According to NASA's webpage at , "The best reason to watch the 2004 transit of Venus is history."  They describe how one of the well known people to try to study it was Lt. James Cook (not yet Captain Cook); sponsored in this adventure by England's  Royal Academy, he traveled on His Majesty's Bark Endeavor to Tahiti in 1769 to view the Transit of Venus from there.  NASA's space shuttle Endeavor was named after Cook's ship, the Endeavor.

See an animated version of pictures taken on December 6, 1882 by David Peck Todd at
Lick Observatory in California; the century-old pictures have been animated and are available as a short clip from a link at actual Lick Observatory plates from 1882 are shown in one of the Exploratorium's webcast videos available at  NASA has intriguing history of the viewing of the event at

The next time you look at the planet Venus, consider also the uncertainty and anxiety of looking skyward during wartime.  During WWII, the South Dakota and other naval ships were engaged in a gunnery battle with what turned out to be the planet Venus, thinking it was an incoming plane. 

We take this opportunity to remind folks to help "Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making" save, display and interpret your old junk. The QC ad campaign in the 80s went something like "Harvard, Yale, Queens --- What's so Funny?" Interesting story about Harvard's collection, and part of it is not so different from what we're trying to do here now.  Labs were being renovated there after WWII and items were being discarded to make room for new things when an alum saw the value of all of this and persevered.  The concept of protecting "old junk" for programs that support the educational mission of the institution is the same, although Harvard had been collecting some of these items since its earliest days, and had Ben Franklin's help.

Newsday's online article about the Transit of Venus includes a photo archive of the June 4, 2004 event at,0,1447740.story?coll=ny-homepage-promo .

Recent animations of how it was expected to look in June 2004 can be seen at .

Washington, DC - National Gallery of Art
Web page catalog information about the outdoor sculpture Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen

The National Gallery of Art displays this giant version of a typewriter eraser as a work of art.  Design issues are part of our study of technology.  How many of our students today know the function of this eraser, and why it was an important new design?

Louisville, Ky - Callahan Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind

New York - Metropolitan Museum of Art /
The Drawings of Leonardo DaVinci
Student Guide

The guide asks "Why is it important to draw a technological process in a clear technologically accurate style?"

New York - FIT - Fashioning the Modern Woman: The Art of the Couturiere 1919-1939
Catalog for exhibit -
February 10 through April 10, 2004

Connecticut - Meshantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

History Channel - Newspaper Advertisement "Save Our History - Unless History Lives in the Present It Has No Future"
The ad itself - 2004

Washington DC - Latino Initiatives, Smithsonian Institute

Underground Railroad
Ad for National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, opening in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 23, 2004; the Freedom Center's website is

The Queens Historical Society has materials available on their website about slavery and the abolition of slavery in New York; documents show there was slavery in Queens.  Information at - see the section on "Slavery in New York."

Florida - Elliott Museum / Historical Society of Martin County

Guide to the exhibits; in the invention room is a very early addressing machine.

Philadelphia, Pa - Delaware River Bridge / Benjamin Franklin Bridge   - 75th Anniversary /
July 1, 1926 - July  2001
Event Staff badge in badge holder / also copy of reverse side

Is an historic bridge a museum? Does it matter that there were exhibits within part of the bridge structure as part of the 75th anniversary celebration?

American Association of Museums - Everyone's Welcome: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Museums, 1998
Excerpts from the guide

Mexico - Chichen Itza
Image from a travel brochure

Peru - Machu Picchu
Image from a travel brochure

China - The Great Wall
Image from a travel brochure

Dominican Republic - Caves
Image from a web site

Egypt - Pyramids at Sunset
Image from a travel brochure

Israel - Ancient outdoor theater
Image from a travel brochure

South Africa - Robben Island Museum
Image from a web site

India - Taj Mahal
Image from a travel brochure

Iraqi Antiquities at Risk - Red List / International Council of Museums (ICOM)
Booklet put out by ICOM to warn the museum community to be on the alert for lost antiquities from Iraq.

Norman Rockwell Museum - Stockbridge, MA.

Topkapi Palace - Istanbul, Turkey

Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Guide to Muang Boran - Thailand

Guide to Delphi and Museum - Greece

El Escorial - Spain

Kosice Technical Museum - Slovak Republic

Fram Museum - Oslo, Norway

Schloss Schoenbrunn - Vienna, Austria

Hungarian National Museum

Ships in a Bottle
The Fram:
The Fram was the ship used by Fridtjof Nansen in 1893 in an historic "drift" toward the North Pole.  Later used by Roald Amundsen in 1910 in a voyage to Antarctica.
The Gjoa: The Gjoa was the ship used by Roald Amundsen in 1903 as he set out for the Northwest Passage; first successful trip to the Northwest Passage.

Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making

Y2K Bug Stuffed Animal

Curator: Syd Lefkoe
Member, Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)
Member, Oral History Association

Curatorial and Aquisitions Assistance by:

Jeff Castellan, Ellen Rondot, Nancy Williams, and Steve Cohn

Our "Museum in the Making" is not an official museum of the College. 
Still in the "startup" stage, it is a
Member, American Association of Museums (AAM)

Photos in the exhibit are by Syd Lefkoe and Ellen Rondot

Technology and Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities
CUNY's Statement on Accessibility
Web Site of the CUNY University Faculty Senate Committee on Disabilities Issues 

Bobby WorldWide Approved 508

© copyright 2004 by Syd Lefkoe

Queens College Home Page