Grand Valley faculty showcases evolution of tech in new media technology exhibit

Technology plays an ever-increasing role in our daily lives and is constantly changing and evolving. But what happens to the outdated technology after a new version is created? 

Grand Valley State University’s operations manager, Scott Vanderberg, has been collecting the school’s outdated media equipment for 35 years. Vanderberg has collected everything from video cameras and tripods to recording devices and landline phones and is currently showcasing his collection in the form of the first ever Media Technology Exhibit at the university's Allendale campus.

“Basically, as technology [changed] over the years [and] we get something new, I hang on to one of the old,” says Vanderberg. Vanderberg believes he has a lot of equipment, but that there is still a lot that he doesn’t have. “I have enough to represent the change in technology over the years,” he says.

Vanderberg has saved over 100 pieces of equipment including a Panasonic NV-8200 Omnivision II VHS cassette recorder, a JVC KY-2700 three-tube color video camera, and a Sony AV-3400 portable record/playback videocorder.

The NV-8200 is a 34-pound VHS editing recorder/player and the KY-2700 is an 18 to 20-pound video camera, both are from the early 80s. The AV-3400 is the first portable color video recorder manufactured in 1969 and weighs 18 pounds.

He has been working with Grand Valley multimedia journalism professors like James Ford and Len O’Kelly to put this equipment on display. Professor Len O’Kelly has his own collection of audio equipment that he plans on sharing with the exhibit to fill in the gaps in the exhibits audio section.

Since there are so many pieces of equipment and not enough space, the first showcase will only feature equipment from the 1980s and will be displayed in Grand Valley’s Mary Idema Pew Library.

“If that works, if there’s any interest, we’ll go bigger and there’s talk of the Grand Rapids Public Museum [getting involved],” says Vanderberg.

However, before the equipment is donated to a museum, Vanderberg and other professors hope to bring the showcase to other communities and make it available to high school and middle school students.

“Hopefully, if it does work, then we will take it on the road. Go to different communities and let people come in and play around with [the gear] because most of the equipment still works,” says Vanderberg.

O’Kelly believes that because much of the equipment they will have on display is getting harder to find, it is crucial for youth to be able to see it in person and be able to interact with it. “Now that we’re dealing with kids born in the 21st century coming through school, a lot of these items they’ve never seen before, except in pictures,” says O’Kelly.

“I think there might be a value in taking some of this gear out and saying, ‘look at how this works.’ Now let’s talk about how it works, why it works, who was the first person to figure out that this works and that can be very valuable from an educational standpoint,” says O’Kelly.

Professor James Ford believes that the exhibit isn’t only to educate people on the history of the equipment, but also the science of how the equipment works and how technology has evolved. “This is an educational exhibit, an opportunity to show people that this is the stuff that they used ‘back in the day’ and here’s how it works,” says Ford. “This is the science that it’s based on, and from this science, we moved along and finally got to the iPhone.”

Photos by Adam Bird of Bird + Bird Studio.

The exhibit will be open Wednesday, March 11 until the end of the month in Grand Valley’s Mary Idema Pew Library. The exhibit shares the same hours as the library and is open to the general public.
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