Mainframes Project Update – 2022-03-22

Project update 2022-03-22

The Mainframe Project has started building out our initial version of the web archive. This means creating a website using the Wax library and setting up a publicly available git repository to allow for multiple code contributors. This stage represents a useful milestone. Why?

  • We may do work that will be thrown away, and that’s OK; it fosters learning (see near future blog posts for why this might be the case)
  • Building a website will reveal the places where our research is adequate, and where we need to need to fortify
  • Creating a concrete artifact to respond to is better than a notional planning or concept of what the archive may be
  • The end product of the project exists, even in nascent form 
  • We have a landing page to which we can point interested parties


Information architecture

Archival projects scream out for structure. Not only is the material curated, but a visitor must be able to anchor their understanding of the collection with categorical filters. Our information architecture document is an initial attempt to understand how a visitor may navigate of the entire collection.


We’ve started to organize our metadata. Our collection of images likely comprises a full archive of mainframe and pre-personal computing visual material. Still, we understand the archive image by image, and need to conceive of it as a collection. We’ll be dumping our entire photo catalog to get a sense of which subcategories and filters make sense for our collection. Our emphasis at this time is on producing the potential collection filterable by many criteria, rather than defining what the archive will be ahead of time by the end of the semester. Valuing “working software over comprehensive documentation” is a critical insight more than 30 years old. 


A publicly available repository is valuable for encouraging contributions from outside of the Mainframe Project’s intial contributors. Working on our project is only a pull request away. Given the current size of the project, we can support non-technical folks in adding images and scholarly and general audience blog posts. Using git/Github and Wax represents “a relatively high but general-purpose learning curve.” Learning how the web works in a generally applicable way enhances our understanding of digital production as humanities scholars. Working in a software repository helps make digital work visible.