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Planetary App (via Planetary)

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is getting onboard with digital acquisitions, this week announcing their first code addition to their collection.

Planetary app screenshot, while listening to some Björk (via Planetary)

The lucky digital item is the appropriately space age iPad app Planetary, which turns your music collection into a solar system with artists as stars, albums as planets, and tracks are moons. In the announcement on Smithsonian.com, it’s explained that not only will the app be on display in the Manhattan museum when it reopens post-renovations in 2014, but a new version will also be used to bring together all of the museum’s around 217,000 objects, most of which are not usually on display, into a digital interface for visitors.

Yet before that unveiling, the Cooper-Hewitt also released the source code to the world this week for anyone to alter into a new version, and, hopefully, to make it have a lifespan far beyond its current devices. The creators, Bloom, which released the app in 2011, have been defunct since 2012, so in this way their work will not just outlive their short start up lifespan, but likely the operating limitations of this current time. Planetary will be unstuck from time.

While this might be their first foray into the intangible wilderness of code, Cooper-Hewitt does already have such visually transient items as digital typography. And it does seem a little slow for a design museum to just now be making its first code acquisition. After all, MoMA is well underway with its code-based games acquisitions. However, Cooper-Hewitt could really take this opportunity to take the lead in not just preserving significant moments in digital design, but offering them to the public to ensure that their longevity is limitless, perhaps beyond the museum itself.

The source code for Planetary is availalbe here on GitHub

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print and online media since 2006. She moonlights...

One reply on “The First Code Acquired by Smithsonian’s Design Museum Is Released to the World”

  1. One key difference with our acquisition of Planetary is that the versioned code that we have acquired inherently contains documentation of its life, and growth. We’re no longer just interested in ‘the finished piece’.

    We explain this and much more in the (admittedly TL;DR) curatorial blogpost –

    “As a research institution we are also interested in reaching new understandings of the ways designers use code that can be gleaned from the code itself . . . As we are acquiring a source code from the version control system that it was managed in (also GitHub), we have been able to preserve all the documentation of bugs, feature additions, and code changes throughout Planetary’s life. This offers many new interpretive opportunities and reveals many of the decisions made by the designers in creating the application.”

    (https://www.cooperhewitt.org/object-of-the-day/2013/08/26/planetary-collecting-and-preserving-code-living-object)

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