Imagine yourself standing in a dark, cavernous space: a perfectly square room with a high ceiling and black walls so dark that the clean, glossy white floor seems suspended in space. In the center of the room a tall metal tower beams light and emits the robotic sounds of computer-controlled motors.
Posts in ‘Media Conservation’
My colleagues in media conservation have spent the last few weeks providing insight into our work at MoMA. This post will give you an idea of one small part of media conservation that is aimed at improving documentation policies related to the process history of time-based media. My role in media conservation over the past eight months at MoMA is, officially, the National Digital Stewardship Resident.
In my previous post we introduced MoMA’s digital art vault, and two of its components: Archivematica (aka “the packager”) and Arkivum (aka “the warehouse”). These systems meet two essential challenges: how to ensure that, far into the future, people will be able to understand the bits and bytes that constitute a digital item in our collection, and how to ensure that we can keep a bit-for-bit authentic copy of this digital item indefinitely.
Recently on Inside/Out, we heard from Assistant Media Conservator Peter Oleksik about MoMA’s efforts to preserve and digitize its collection of analog video art, amassed over the course of four decades. The heroic undertaking of digitizing over 4,000 videotapes was absolutely critical for preservation and access purposes. However, when we digitize analog videotape, we have just begun a new chapter in the artwork’s life
Three years after the advent of the Portapak (the first portable video recorder), MoMA showed Nam June Paik’s Lindsay Tape (1967) as part of the landmark 1968 exhibition The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, organized by K.G. Pontus Hultén. The piece consisted of two, half-inch reel-to-reel decks that were spaced 10 feet apart, with the tape (Paik’s original!), jerry-rigged together to allow it to loop continuously. After a week on view, the wear on the tape proved too much. It began to break down and was taken off view (and was almost lost to history). Despite this rather daunting introduction to the fragile and fugitive nature of video, the Museum began to formally acquire video works in the late 1970s,
Media conservation is responsible for the audio, 35mm slide, performance, software, video, and film-based artworks in MoMA’s collection, caring for them in collaboration with colleagues across the Museum’s departments including Audio Visual, Curatorial, Information Technology, and Registrar. The first conservation position at MoMA was created in 1959 for a paintings conservator, and since then the Conservation Department has evolved to include specialists in sculpture, paper, photography, conservation science, and most recently media, in 2007.
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