Word from the company: No. Apple’s leaders say they are more interested in the future than the past.
In fact, the most complete historical collection of all things Apple is nowhere near Cupertino. The serious Apple fan must travel to, of all places, Savona, Italy.
The All About Apple Museum has more than 9,000 pieces of that history — from the Apple I to Apple TV. How it came to be housed in the northern Italian seaport town is best described as a gift and happy accident.
Apple’s history is mostly watched over by private collectors, some of whom have collections so big they plan to open museums in their own towns. Bits of Apple’s history can be found in places like the Smithsonian and Silicon Valley’s own Computer History Museum. An Apple Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, recently opened its doors and though smaller than the collection in Italy it, too, boasts of a deep catalog of Apple’s evolution.
‘Take what you like’
The story of the All About Apple museum began in 2002 when IT consultant Alessio Ferraro went to a friend’s retirement party to wish him well on a new chapter in his life. But it was Ferraro’s life that changed that night when the friend led him to a computer warehouse and told him to take whatever interested him.
Ferraro left that night with the keys to the warehouse and the seeds for what would become the start of the collection, a sizable number of Apple-computer artifacts, some of which dated back to Apple’s beginning in 1976.
“There were a lot of very interesting things in that warehouse, like the Lisa,” said Alberto Crosio, a lighting consultant who contributed some pieces in the beginning and is now a member of the museum staff. “I know it sounds weird, but he said look at what I have in my house and it was like 10 people who collected their old things. I added a NeXT computer. We were all into it. It was just crazy.”
A kind of thumbs-up from Apple
While Apple execs have publicly dismissed the notion of a museum, the All About Apple Museum received a bit of an unofficial nod from Cupertino. An Apple executive invited the group to California to tour the facilities and privately offered praise for the care the museum was taking with Apple’s history.
“Officially, they do not want to be related to something in their past,” Crosio said. “But they complimented us on what we were doing.”
Ferraro and friends, all serious fans of Apple, formed a user group and pooled together the collection. As it grew, the idea of a museum followed. All About Apple opened its doors in 2005 and has moved a couple of times. It’s now located near the University Centre of Savona with plenty of exhibit space, plus room to archive items not on display.
Works like new
Every device, showing the 40-year evolution of personal computing through Apple, works just as it would’ve on day one.
There are close to 1,000 computers, 142 of which are non-Apple, like Commodore, Atari and Olivetti machines that help provide a museum-goer with historical context. The collection includes 244 monitors, 152 printers, more than 13,000 peripherals, like keyboards, mouses and drives. There are also Newtons, iPods, pre-production prototypes, manuals, brochures, posters and all the software.
Many of the devices are warehoused to serve as a source for parts to keep the working models running.
There are also more personal items, like the first company sign, a toolbox belonging to co-founder Steve Wozniak and an Apple II with synthesizer that was in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind that produced that famous five-note melody used to greet the aliens.
The unintentional museum creators now find themselves at a crossroads. Each member of the group takes turns staffing the museum, which is open two days a week.
It’s popular enough, the group believes, to be open five days a week. It makes only enough money to sustain itself and everyone on staff has kept their day jobs. They are talking about hiring a full-time manager.
“We are enthusiasts but it grew so fast that it became more than a hobby,” Crosio said. “It is a passion and we cannot lose this. We know we must grow up.”