The Centre for Computing History has been told it can establish a computer museum in an unused Cambridge building, but not before it meets a series of building regulation requirements.
While the city council has granted the computer museum's change of use application, allowing what was a furniture showroom to be used as an exhibition space, it is now required to bring the entire premises up to current building regulation standards.
Taken to the extreme, this could mean that everything from the lighting to the heating needs to be upgraded, which would place a massive and possibly prohibitive financial burden on the museum.
However, the change of use is minor, from A1 (shops) to A1/D1 (museums) and as there are plans for a museum store, it is essentially an expanded display area. Jason Fitzpatrick, founder and director of the computer museum, says the council is taking a pragmatic approach to the situation, but it still faces a financial challenge as it modernises the facility's access and awaits for further detail on changes.
“Technically we could sign the lease at any time, but would rather wait to get it right,” said Fitzpatrick, “so we are speaking about exactly what needs to be done and why.”
Though Fitzpatrick has landed a series of funding and organisational coups since the museum launched its Cambridge campaign including a scene-stealing pitch on Springboard investor day, it won't be able to become self-sustaining until it opens the Cambridge facility, which means a new fundraising push.
This is happening through a new highly affordable sponsorship opportunity which Fitzpatrick says will allow more people in Cambridge to get involved in a project that celebrates much of what has powered the local high tech cluster's phenomenal success from Acorn and Sinclair through to Autonomy and ARM.
The museum tracks the start of this period referred to as the Information Age, one in which we are still firmly rooted and offering a story the museum says is as compelling as any Shakespearean drama encompassing passion, intrigue, betrayal, wonder, risk and vision.
The museum’s machines, displays and interactive shows which encompass a truly eye-opening array of equipment are common around the country, on TV, in schools and at exhibitions as it does a massive amount of outreach work often at no cost. It is this experience that it wants to share on a permanent basis in Cambridge, home of the UK's own home computing story.
“We want this to be something that Cambridge owns,” said Fitzpatrick, “and we want a lot more people on board.”