I contacted a few people at the university, and over the course of few weeks my fears were confirmed: the person who put it up as a little exhibit was already gone, and no other documentation was preserved alongside it.
I rushed to contact people I knew at the Computer History Museum, asking if this would be an interesting artifact for their collection. I offered to fly to Poland to secure it and transport it with me to California, covering all the costs. I was delighted when they said yes.
The only remaining question was: would the Polish university be willing to part with it? It was a tricky issue. Convincing them this was an important artifact could go either way: they may understand the importance of its preservation and be willing to part with it – but they might as well rather decide to keep the suddenly valuable item for themselves. Likewise, saying it would end up in a prestigious American museum could be seen as a great nod of appreciation… or go against national pride, particularly with American reputation far away from what it used to be.
I’ve never done anything like this before, and I didn’t want to blow my only shot. I asked everybody I knew who understood artifact collecting for advice. Eventually, I composed a long (but not too long!), deliberate (but also somewhat casual) essay to the University, and ended it with a question: would you be interested in donating this artifact to the Computer History Museum?
They responded back saying they needed time to discuss and make a decision. In the meantime, I kept dreaming. I imagined myself travelling to Białystok, after visiting my family in Poland as a surprise. I imagined taking great, high quality photos of the keyboard, and maybe even figuring out how to connect it like I did with the PCjr one
, taking it on its last typing ride. And then, I imagined the delivery to the Computer History Museum and maybe, some time in the future, the keyboard exhibited behind the glass of the very same corridors I once frequented during weekends and evenings – now safe and recognized, with a plaque I could help write, and a plaque that would never be allowed to fall down.
Then the university came back to me. Their answer was “no.”