Computer Museum Reopens

OLD ‘COMPUTER’ — Barbara Keremedjiev shows off a reproduction of an Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek analog computer, at the American Computer & Robotics Museum in Bozeman, Mont.

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Barbara Keremedjiev suf­fered a terrible blow when her husband George Ker­e­medjiev died un­ex­pect­edly after heart sur­gery in November.

“After the initial shock . I thought, what am I going to do?” Barbara said.

Leave Bozeman? Go live near the grandkids?

Despite her shock and grief, she quickly decided she would stay and fight to sustain and expand her hus­band’s creation — the Amer­ican Computer & Ro­bot­ics Museum.

On Jan. 2, she reopened the free, nonprofit mu­se­um, which had been closed since her husband’s death Nov. 17.

“This museum has to be a living legacy to George,” said Barbara, 63.

“This was his love, his pas­sion. He gave it ev­ery­thing. I could not imagine this not con­tin­u­ing,” she said.

After conferring with fam­ily, supporters and friends at Montana State Uni­ver­sity, her goal now is to make the small but well-re­spected museum lar­ger, self-sustaining and pro­fes­sion­ally staffed by 2021.

“He would be very pleased,” she said.

In a few short weeks, she has expanded the non­profit museum’s board of di­rectors from four to 10 mem­bers to include people with expertise in high-tech, fi­nan­ces, management, fund­raising, grant writing and other fields.

Museum consultant Art Wolf, a former Museum of the Rockies director and good friend of George’s, offered to help for free. And they have developed a three-part plan.

First, they’re raising enough money this month to run the museum for the rest of this year and to hire an executive director. The only change this year will be to the exhibit that honors the 50th anniversary of hu­man­kind’s first walk on the moon.

Second, they’ll spend sev­eral months putting to­geth­er a long-range stra­tegic plan for the museum’s future, which will include a financial plan and finding a larger space to display more of the collection that’s in storage. And finally, once the master plan is ready to show people, they’ll go out to raise serious funds to make that dream a reality.

The museum, which the Keremedjievs found­ed in 1990, docu­ments and explains hu­man­ity’s in­ven­tions in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and computing, from an actual 4,000-year-old Babylonian clay tablet to one of the last surviving main­frame computers used by NASA at the time of the Apollo Moon mis­sion. It has one of the first Apple computers, do­na­ted by company co-foun­der Steve Wozniak, plus ex­hib­its on robots, artificial in­tel­ligence and women in com­puting.

USA Today readers voted it in 2016 as one of the nation’s top 10 free museums. A handwritten note from famed Harvard scientist E.O. Wilson called it “inch for inch the best museum in the country.”

George Keremedjiev, who worked around the world as a manufacturing con­sul­tant, was the mu­se­um’s “guiding force,” Bar­bara said. He did the re­search and created exhibits to explain complex ideas so any­one could understand them, while she gave tours and trained students and volunteers.

He found joy in learning new things and educating others about the history of technology and the peop­le behind the magical inventions that we take for granted, she said.

They met in 1979. She grew up in communist Po­land, was educated at Wro­claw University, spoke Eng­lish and worked as a tour guide. She met a friend, who invited her to visit New Jersey as a tourist, and there one day she met George.

“It was love at first sight,” Barbara said. “It was fascinating talking to him.”

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