Expert in digital media heritage at Swinburne’s Centre for Transformative Media Technologies, Professor Melanie Swalwell has launched The Australia Emulation Network, an ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) project, that brings digital artefacts back to life for emulation and use.
The Emulation as a Service Infrastructure platform (EaaSI) provides access to previously inaccessible artefacts that require obsolete computer hardware and software environments. Building on two of Professor Swalwell’s existing Linkage projects, Play It Again and Archiving Australian Media Arts, this project addresses the challenge of aging software with an industry-based focus.
This project builds upon Side-by-Side which emulates videogames and media artworks installed on original platforms and a browser-based emulation platform EasSI.
Time for action
Professor Swalwell says this project scales up her previous projects to prevent the loss of even more important digital material.
“This is an area of great need. We've not done much about this in Australia for quite a long time, so this project is going to really kickstart things and build a national software archive that will benefit all partners,” Professor Swalwell says.
If we don’t take action to archive these artefacts now, Professor Swalwell says, we could lose decades of historical material.
“There is a digital dark ages scenario looming. If we don't have access to records from when we started using computers in a significant way in the 80s and 90s, whole decades of content will be lost,” Professor Swalwell says.
Speaking at the project’s launch event, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Media, Film and Education Professor James Verdon said the project is one that’s close to his heart.
“This project is about accessibility and thinking about the ways we can engage tangible solutions that enable legacy digital artefacts to become content that can be played and interacted with using minimal IT resources,” he says.
This project shifts the focus of emulating industry-based artefacts.
Professor Swalwell says creating EaaSI as shared infrastructure lowers the bar for its users and will give them confidence to collect digital media now and in the future.
“This shared infrastructure will mean organisations won't need to have incredible IT gurus in house who can build them bespoke solutions. It'll be a platform that organisations can access through a web browser.”
The first steps towards a Centre of Excellence
Professor Swalwell hopes that EaaSI could be the pathway to a Centre of Excellence for digital cultural heritage.
“This infrastructure project is a key step and recognises that there is important research to be done across a number of disciplinary domains, which require access to currently inaccessible, legacy digital artefacts,” Professor Swalwell says.
This project is in collaboration with Swinburne University of Technology (lead), RMIT, University of Melbourne, UniSA, Western Sydney University, University of Western Australia, UNSW, AARNet, ACMI, AIATSIS, Art Gallery of NSW, Museum of Applied Arts and Science, Australian Computer Museum Society, National Archives of Australia, National and State Libraries of Australasia (NSLA), Open SLX, Yale University, Cornell University, Australian Institute of Architects, National Library of New Zealand, and Archives New Zealand.