Who doesn’t like to feel like a child again? Who wouldn’t turn back time if they could? Unfortunately, no one by far has found a way to go back in time similar to Dr. Emmett Brown in the beloved movie „Back to the Future.” Thankfully, what we can suggest doing is visiting Wrocław, a beautiful city in western Poland. Apart from various attractions, beautiful architecture, rich history and delicious food, there is a real gem for our inner child: the Museum of Games and Computers of Past Era. Everyone born in the second half of the 20th century can go on a nostalgic journey, while all the youngsters can discover the fun of life before the Internet era. We managed to ask Jakub Rzepecki, one of the founders of the museum, several questions about this cool place.
How did it all begin? Where did the idea come from?
There are four founders of the Museum: myself, Artur, Michał and Wojtek. We have been huge fans and collectors of old equipment for many, many years. Back in 2011, we came up with an initiative called RetroGralnia (Retro-Playroom), which aimed at presenting old games, old computers and game consoles during different events or exhibitions. We wanted this old stuff to be remembered and give people the chance to see it and meet it again if they don’t have it at home. As „RetroGralnia,” we traveled across the whole of Poland; we visited at least fifty convents, festivals and conferences. We were also organizing our own events. At some point, we realized that we have so much equipment that organizing the exhibition that would be satisfying for us would take several weeks and the display only lasts for three days. We started to think about creating something permanent.
What were the biggest difficulties the museum faced at the beginning and how is it dealing with them now?
The first, and at the same time the biggest, problem was to find and adapt the premises. As we are neither sponsored or donated by the government or city councils, we had to look for one on the market. It turned out that finding such place in Wrocław was extremely difficult. After many months we managed to find a right space at the Świebodzki Railway Station, which is closed for traffic. Then we started a renovation that lasted more than 160 days. Why did it take us about half a year? First of all, there was an immense work waiting for us as before there was a boxing club. Secondly, it was only us financing the changes, as well as our friends and families. During the renovation, we also decided to organize the crowdfunding initiative to support the work, but we also treated that as a sort of promotion of the future Museum, not strictly as a financial goal. After the renovation, we also took some time to prepare our main exhibitions to finally open, on September 2, 2017, as our Museum of Games and Computers of Past Era. The first months were difficult for obvious reasons of course. We had to learn what are the exceptions of the people coming to visit and it actually happens until now as our displays are evolving along with our visitors’ wishes. We’re still in the process of completing our exhibition. Despite that our premises covers nearly 200 meters square, it is enough only for few percentage of our collection and we’re still choosing which exhibits are the best one to be presented.
What is the most valuable exhibit that we can see currently in the Museum?
We have plenty of great examples in our collection. We do have the first computer PC-IBM 5150 from 1981, we have Apple IIe from 1993 (unfortunately Apple I is impossible to get), first computers Atari and Commodore from the end of 70s. At our museum you can also see the first home-made console - Magnavox Odyssey from 1972 and its competition - Atari Pong from 1974 and its various clones like the first console for cartridges and many more. We also have several machines, including early Asteroid from 1982. We have gathered most of historically important computers and consoles, starting from the 70s until the 21st century.
So what does the museum offer?
Our Museum is opened from Tuesday till Sunday during the summer holidays; earlier, it was opened only between Thursday and Sunday. Everyone can enter the museum and dive into the world of video games and history of computers. Apart from nearly 200 relics, which are presented at the display, we have prepared about thirty stands to play. There is no proper way of sharing the knowledge about the history of games and computers without the possibilities of playing! That’s why we are being on the interaction with our guests. Everything what’s not in the showcases can be touched or used. Apart from the individual visitors, we have plenty visits from the school trips that we additionally offer lectures about the history of informatics and games.
What are your plans for the future?
We are constantly developing our collection and exhibition. At the moment we are planning to rearrange one of our rooms so we can squeeze there some new, very interesting, exhibits - I can’t say what it will be, yet. All the time the new gaming stand or some new exhibit appear in the Museum. We are also trying to make finding a way to the Museum easier by joining different initiatives collecting Museums or touristic attractions. Lately we also introduced the possibly of buying the tickets online. We are extending the educational offer - we want to create the base of lessons and workshops based on the use of our antique equipment, which is perfect for it. Additionally, we are now working on the new exhibits’ descriptions, which are already available in the expanded version via our mobile app.
What’s there more to add? Only - let’s go, let’s see and let’s play!