Collaborating Towards the Care of Time-Based Media

Matters in Media Art is a multi-phase project designed to provide guidelines for care of time-based media works of art (e.g., video, film, audio and computer based installations). The project was created in 2003 by a consortium of curators, conservators, registrars and media technical managers from New Art Trust, MoMA, SFMOMA and Tate. The consortium launched its first phase, on loaning time-based media works, in 2004, and its second phase, on acquiring time-based media works, in 2007.

Often only fully realized in their installed state, time-based media works are complex systems that pose new challenges for their custodians. Effective approaches to their stewardship rely on the blending of traditional museum practice with new modes of operating that derive from and respond to the complex nature of these installations. In many cases artists are very specific about the way in which the work should be installed and the technology used to show it. The installation of these works requires new skills and new areas of collaboration within museums. Whereas internationally agreed standards exist for the handling, installation and care of traditional works of art, there are no such standards at present for time-based media works. This project aims to raise awareness of the requirements of these works and to provide a practical response to the need for international agreement among museums.

The challenge of preserving time-based media is best met collaboratively, and it is the consortium’s hope that others will not only benefit from this information but will also contribute over time to the further refinement of the methods of care for these works of art. We hope this material will be an aid to artists, collectors, dealers and museums, the primary custodians of time-based media.