His First Love: AMES Australia Heartlands 2016 Arts Project

by Nick Crotty
Publish date
17 June 2016
Comments (9)


Several months ago, I was contacted by the Discovery Centre as someone had looked at our Collections Online, had seen a personal computer and wanted to look at it in person. While that’s not very different from other access requests, this person also asked if they could use the computer in the background of a film they were making. Personal Computer - IBM, PS/2 Model 30-286, circa 1990

White PC monitor and keyboard, IBM Computer System, IBM PS/2 Model 30-286, circa 1990.
Image: Matilda Vaughan
Source: Museum Victoria

Normally we don’t allow our objects to be used as props, because the transaction is difficult to manage, especially without much warning, and is not really what the collection is intended for. I once had an enquiry from a music video director who wanted to attach one of our astronomy orreries (Orrery, Tellurium & Lunarium) to a camera and “zoom” it around an abandoned warehouse. He wanted to “make science fun”!

Man sitting down recording film
Mehak recording his film in front of the IBM PS/2 Model 30 (HT 29909) in the Scienceworks Collection Store.
Image: Nick Crotty
Source: Museum Victoria

However, I asked for some more details about how this enquirer intended to use the computer. What came back was a really touching story.

Mehak is a refugee. He was born in Afghanistan and his father worked for an NGO (Non-Government Organisation).

Someone in the organisation gave his father an IBM computer, much like the one in our collection. Mehak managed to get it working using a car battery but could only manage 20 minutes of use at a time before the battery died. It was a marvel in the village in which he lived and all the villagers came to see him use it.

Man in front of old PC Mehak’s story.
Image: AMES Australia
Source: AMES Australia

But the Taliban found out about the computer, raided his home and confiscated it. Later he managed to leave Afghanistan and come to Australia. Mehak never saw that computer again, until he came into the Scienceworks Collection Store.

Our technology collection is slightly different from the rest of the collection. Much of it was collected because of the item itself and how it fits into the history of technology development, rather than because of whom it belonged to or how it was operated. This particular IBM PC was used by Museum staff in the early to mid 1990s. Once it was superseded, rather than disposing of it, it was offered to the collections. It was acquired because it refers to a specific period of computing technology and was made by one of the biggest computing manufacturing companies. There is no other “history” behind it.

Man smiling in office. Mehak’s story.
Image: AMES Australia
Source: AMES Australia

Yet Mehak’s story shows a very different side to such a piece of equipment. To him it was much more than just a computer.

You can view Mehak’s story here:


You can see this video and many more at the Footscray Community Arts Centre until 30 June, it then moves to the Wyndham Art Gallery.

There is a special screening at ACMI on Tuesday 21 June.

For more details about the AMES Australia Heartlands 2016 Arts Project go to: http://www.ames.net.au/ames-media-player

Comments (9)

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Martin Hallett 17 June, 2016 21:06
What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it.
Graham Smith 1 May, 2017 23:17
Martin can you contact me regarding David Smith?
Liz 20 June, 2016 12:02
Beautiful story.
Steven Pass 20 June, 2016 13:47
Great story, Nick. Well done !
Jenni Meaney 20 June, 2016 15:16
Wow - I love that story. I love how an object can be so many things to so many different people in ways that you could never imagine...Great that you could accommodate the request Nick.
Caroline Mallett 27 June, 2016 15:39
Wonderful use of what we all perceive to be an inanimate object. Mehak you proved that love has no bounds.
James Neild 30 June, 2016 10:59
Great story Nick! Very interesting to see how technology is changing societies and how we will soon look back on our PC's with affection (even though some of us do already :) )
Nik 30 June, 2016 12:46
This is a very unexpected but lovely way for a member of the public to interact with an object from the MV collection. It's not so much about the technology, but what it meant to an individual. What a fantastic art project.
Jan 23 November, 2016 12:06
What a terrific story and how wonderful that an object from the collection was able to be the vehicle for this story
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.