Preserving a Culture of Innovation
In May 1998, angel investor Ron Conway first learned about Google at Palo Alto’s Empire Tap Room, now closed. On the receipt, he prophetically inscribed “this is going to be huge!”
This receipt is part of a trove of early artifacts and digital assets coming to the Computer History Museum (CHM) in what’s been dubbed the “Google Founders Collection.” A cornerstone acquisition of CHM’s Exponential Center, dedicated to capturing the legacy and advancing the future entrepreneurship and innovation, the collection contains objects, documents, photographs, and video from Google’s first 10 years.
“Google embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that the Exponential Center is documenting, interpreting, and sharing with people around the world,” said Marguerite Gong Hancock, executive director of the Exponential Center. “This collection will support the production of many rich lessons of risk-taking, innovation, and bold ideas that will both tell the early Google story and inspire future entrepreneurs.”
Other notable artifacts include Google’s first business plan and the “Crayon Graph,” first drawn by Lucas Pereira to track query growth and then added to by other Googlers to highlight milestones and special events.
The initial collection was assembled within Google by VP of Product Management Richard Holden under the leadership of Susan Wojcicki, now CEO of YouTube, who housed Google’s early-stage operation — led by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — in her home in Menlo Park, California. (Wojcicki later served as a senior vice president of Google, before moving to YouTube.) Curatorial Director of CHM’s Internet History Program Marc Weber worked closely with Wojcicki and Google, serving as the project’s web historian, and provided essential historical interpretation and scope.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with Google to protect and preserve this pivotal part of Silicon Valley history, and grateful to Susan Wojcicki for demonstrating that a culture of preservation within these historic companies can be as important to future generations as a culture of innovation.”
— John Hollar, CEO & President, Computer History Museum
The Museum’s Collections team will lead the work of cataloging and archiving the collection, which is expected to take a number of years. In continued collaboration with Google, the Museum will also be accepting future artifact donations that are relevant to the startup decade covered by the collection. While the Museum with the Exponential Center may develop future programs based on the collection will not currently be accessible by the public.
“The Computer History Museum’s impressive collections and archiving expertise made the Museum a natural choice to preserve the Google Founders Collection. We look forward to collaborating with CHM as the collection expands.”
— Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Establishing a Culture of Preservation
The Google Founders Collection joins a number of corporate and organization archives preserved or managed by the Museum, including early computing giant Digital Equipment Corporation and social media precursor Community Memory. These collections comprise early documents, photos, records, media, and artifacts that embody the startup spirit of early Silicon Valley and a budding technology industry. They represent a culture of innovation.
Most recently, CHM and Cisco, in a groundbreaking collaboration, launched the Center for Cisco Heritage, which emphasizes the importance of preserving Silicon Valley’s corporate history and presents a new model for open business archives. Led by CHM’s Paula Jabloner and Stephanie Waslohn, the center comprises a collection of artifacts, documents, media, and ephemera — from early campaign posters to some of the company's first products— that tell the story of Cisco’s 30-year history. The three-year project culminated with the exhibit Our Story, which opened on March 31, 2017, to the cheers of former and current employees, board members, and executives, including former Cisco CEOs John Chambers and John Morgridge. In 2016 the center became its own LLC, with Museum trustee and Cisco executive Don Proctor as its CEO, and endowed to provide long-term, sustainable preservation.
In the coming weeks, the Museum will also release the largest and most complete set of records from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), dating from 1947 through 2002, with the bulk from the company’s years of operation from 1957 through 1998, when they were bought by Compaq Computer. Founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, DEC was one of the most successful computer companies of the 20th century, reaching nearly $14 billion in revenue and over 120,000 employees worldwide.