Computer Column #359
The world of antiques covers many areas, and no one can be an expert in them all. Sometimes antiquers will want to expand their horizons and enter a new area. The computer, the Internet, and search engines are tools for gaining an initial picture of this new world. Here are two examples.
Antique and recent folk art have many variations. Every age, nation, and culture has produced its folk art. In search engines, “folk art” is the common term, and the occasional “folkart” will be found by the search as well. Look as well for “Outsider art” and “self-taught” and such specifics such as “Native American art.” We searched for “folk art museums” and got many hits. Some described the museum for visitors. Others had extensive online illustrations of their collections.
An aerial view of a giant folk art drawing of a hummingbird scratched in the iron-rich soil of a Peruvian desert perhaps 2000 years ago.
New Mexico became part of the United States as a result of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War. The state capital, Santa Fe, at an altitude of over 7000 feet, has a little over 80,000 citizens. Early in the 20th century, Santa Fe became a center for artists and writers, and it still is today. It has many museums displaying United States, Mexican, and Native American heritage, including folk art. The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe (1) has a collection of over 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. Its online catalog has excellent pictures and descriptions of many of these objects. Viewers can register and save groupings of objects and receive a newsletter. There is a fee for reproducing images. The nearby Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Laboratory of Anthropology (2) does not have an online catalog but has links to current online exhibits, audio recordings, and YouTube videos about their work.
In New York City, the American Folk Art Museum (3) paints a broad picture of the subject. Its online catalog shows several thousand examples from the collection in various categories. In Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum (4) has an impressive collection. Its online catalog is difficult to browse, though, and the illustrations are not high resolution.
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, has a collection of folk and self-taught art (5). Click on a pictured category and see additional examples. The collections of the Tucson Museum of Art (6) in Tucson, Arizona, include many examples of folk art. Rather than plowing through the entire museum holdings, use the “Keyword Search” tool and enter only the single word “folk.” Pictures are small, but clicking on one twice expands it.
The Display Barn at the Museum of Appalachia (7) in Clinton, Tennessee, is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate and specializes in local folk art. Click “Information” on its home page and then “photographs.” The photos are sharp and can be downloaded. A real fan of Appalachia may want to visit the museum in person. Be sure to continue to the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center (8) at milepost 282 on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, North Carolina.
Folk art dealers are worth visiting. Enter “folk art dealers” followed by a city or state in a search engine. A surprising number of hits will be found. Most search engines will also display a map with dealer locations. Browsing the ads in Maine Antique Digest orsearchingthe Antiques Trade Directory will show others.
Old personal computers are not likely to be of interest to antiquers despite a few spectacular auction results. In 2016 Fortune (9) reported that one of the first Apple computers ever built sold for $815,000. In 2014 the Henry Ford Museum bought an Apple I computer in outstanding condition for $905,000 (10). There have been later sales in the low five figures. Apple was a pioneer, and Apple owners are sentimental about their machines. Note that these computers were complete and in good condition.
Millions of personal computers have been sold. There is no shortage of old ones. Within a couple of years of ownership, the resale value plummets. Many of us got our first computer experience on machines such as the Commodore 64 or the Radio Shack TRS-80. These might bring a few bucks for sentimental reasons.
Even if a particular computer is popular, it must be in good shape. Thirty years ago, I bought a Radio Shack Tandy 1000SX, an inexpensive clone of the first IBM PC. It was not in original condition, so its current value is essentially zero. It had been mod- ified to use a standard keyboard in place of Radio Shack’s proprietary one, and an early hard drive had been added in place of one of the 5.25" floppy drives that provided the computer’s only RAM and data memory.
Parts for repair are another problem. Laptops need a new battery every so often. I bought a used Dell Latitude Windows 95 laptop 20 years ago. It served until recently as a point-of-sale computer at indoor and outdoor antiques shows. It still runs when plugged into an outlet, but the battery is dead. There are replacements advertised on the Internet, but I do not have enough faith to chance spending $100 or so.
Those wishing to further pursue vintage computers can look at the following websites. PCWorld magazine lists the most collectible computers (11). A site called Mentalfloss lists classic computers such as some people had as a kid (12). Steve’s Computer Collection (13) has an extensive list with pictures and specs. Wikipedia has an extensive list of home computers (14).
Values of vintage computers are hard to determine. The following sources should be taken with a grain of salt. Some of the prices are wishful thinking by the seller. Gadget Value (15) and UsedPrice (16) will appraise on the basis of data typed in. The MUO site will suggest sources for computers and parts (17). eBay has a section on vintage computers and parts (18).
Finding software to run on old computers is sometimes difficult. DOS Software (19) and Software Library (20) have software for Microsoft-compatible PCs. Macintosh Gardens (21), Vintage Mac Software (22), and Macintosh Repository (23) have software for Apple-compatible PCs. For computers such as the Commodore 64, which are outside these two areas, use a search engine to find sources.
1. Museum of International Folk Art. www.moifa.org
2. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. www.miaclab.org
3. American Folk Art Museum. http://collection.folkartmuseum.org
4. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. www.history.org/history/museums/abby_art.cfm
5. High Museum of Art. www.high.org/collection_area/folk-and-self-taught-art
6. Folk Art of the Americas, Tucson Museum of Art. https://tucsonmuseumofart.org/folk-art-of-the-americas
7. Museum of Appalachia. www.museumofappalachia.org/exhibits/display-barn-folk-art
8. Southern Highland Craft Guild. www.southernhighlandguild.org/folk-art-center
9. Apple Computer Auction. http://fortune.com/2016/08/26/apple-i-auction
10. Henry Ford Museum. www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/acquiring-our-1976-apple-1-computer
11. PCWorld Most Collectible Computers. www.pcworld.com/article/136242/article.html#slide19
12. Classic Computers. http://mentalfloss.com/article/27971/10-classic-computers-you-had-kid
13. Steve’s Computer Collection. http://oldcomputers.net
14. Wikipedia Home Computers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_home_computers
15. Gadget Value. www.gadgetvalue.com
16. UsedPrice. www.usedprice.com/items/computer
18. eBay Vintage Computers. www.ebay.com/b/Vintage-Computers-Parts-Accessories/11189/bn_1637394
19. DOS Software. www.reimagery.com/fsfd
20. Software Library. https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_msdos
21. Macintosh Garden. http://macintoshgarden.org
22. Vintage Mac Software. www.mathdittos2.com/vinsoft.html
23. Macintosh Repository. www.macintoshrepository.org
Originally published in the December 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest