An archival revolution began unfolding a few years back at the Canadian Centre for Architecture alongside three blockbuster exhibitions featuring materials from the CCA’s Archaeology of the Digital collection.1 As the center amassed a vast number of files across twenty-five architectural projects from the heyday of the digital (that is, from the end of the 1980s through the early 2000s), collections staff began to set up a search-and-access system to make this digital archival material available to scholars.2 This has been an ambitious project. Rather than using the relatively simple approach of making only easily viewable files available (e.g., by turning everything into PDFs), the archivists have taken the much more technically challenging route of reanimating historical files (digital drawings, models, documents, and so on) within re-created historical computing environments that open in a seamless manner right on the scholar’s desktop—a method called “software emulation.”

The two main...

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