Collaborative infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art

Compressed Forests, Jan Robert Leegte, 2016 collection Centraal Museum
Image credit: Compressed Forests, Jan Robert Leegte, 2016


Works of art and archives in the field of digital culture are an important part of our cultural heritage. Currently artists are increasingly engaging with digital art using social media, online platforms, VR, augmented and mixed reality and NFTs. Digital art is also increasingly better represented in the Dutch museums and other cultural institutions. The ever-changing technology is the source of continuous challenges for its future presentation. Rapid obsolescence of hard and software, complexity and multidisciplinarity and the lack of established best practices at the museums put these artworks in the collections at high risk.

Collaborative infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art is a practice-based research project that focuses on the needs of complex digital artworks from Dutch collections and their caretakers. The project has urgent goals: to save digital artworks for future generations to experience, and to commonly develop and share knowledge to make this happen.


The sustainable preservation and storage of digital artworks require constant care, as they need ongoing translation to a technical infrastructure that meets up-to-date, certified and sustainable technical standards. Furthermore, “new” art forms such as Virtual Reality and Net Art constantly require advanced technical research as well as the development of good practice and expertise at the level of the collection-managing institutions. A considerable amount of media artworks would be lost without the proper care. The research is based on ten case studies from the collections involved. Questions and recommendation checklists related to the care of these digital artworks are explored, focussing on developing best practices in analyzing, documenting and storing digital artworks. The project incorporates artist interviews, multidisciplinary research, a WIKI with documentation reports, and video clips presenting diverse perspectives. Workshops are developed, museum professionals, two junior conservators and many (phd) interns will be trained within the project. 

The results and insights will be implemented in the collaborative infrastructure workflow, metadata system, storage and monitoring in order to take care of both; collected works and future acquisitions. The findings will be disseminated to the national and international digital art and conservation field to improve practices for sustaining digital artworks at large.

The project involves the ongoing collaboration with 15 collections, 10 artists, 2 networks with the LI-MA research team Gaby Wijers, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator, Claudia Roeck, Conservator of Software Based Art, Mauricio van der Maesen de Sombreff engineer and Junior Conservator of Digital Art, Olivia Brum, Junior Conservator of Digital Art, Joost Dofferhoff, Registrar and Preservation Assistant and a team of technical specialists taking care of sustaining the digital infrastructure.

LI-MA is internationally recognised as a pioneer in the field of media art preservation and digitalisation. For this project, LI-MA teamed up with (international) artists, museums, corporate collections, private collectors, presentation institutions, the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), The Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (SMBK) and NDE (the Dutch Digital Heritage Network)  which is a worldwide unique collaboration in this area.

Case Studies:

Running A Circle Clockwise by Jeroen Jongeleen, 2017 by Rafaël Rozendaal, 2014 by Rafaël Rozendaal, 2014

The_Living by Debra Solomon, 1997-1998

Compressed Forests by Jan Robert Leegte 2016

Jan Robert Leegte, Compressed Forests, 2016

Kahlil Joseph: BLKNWS® Original Variations (Unique Variant #6), 2018 -

Kahlil Joseph's BLKNWS® Original Variations (Unique Variant #6) as displayed at the Bonnefanten Museum from June 18th, 2020 to April 3rd, 2022

The challenges at stake
Dynamic (online) artworks and practices require  new approaches to documentation and management for future presentations. 

The fact that collections have accumulated by now a substantial amount of digital artworks, that these artworks depend on the rapid technical development and  the lack of a new generation of experts, make research, knowledge gathering and sharing increasingly important and urgent. A substantial part  of the developed knowledge has not yet been implemented, which generates a continuous stream of questions on the topics of: acquisition, documentation, sustainability and storage. Without this knowledge, the artworks cannot be adequately documented and analysed and no plan can be made for digital sustainability.

The aims of the project
With this project we want to give solid answers to the above described challenges. The project Infrastructure sustainable accessibility digital art invests in research, training, knowledge sharing and conservation. By combining these components we prevent the loss of both digital artworks and the knowledge to preserve them. 

The project consists of the following parts:

  • case study based research on the preservation of dynamic digital art
  • the training of specialists
  • knowledge sharing: each case will be discussed and the results and findings will be shared in fitting formats (like for ex. a round table, symposium or wiki)
  • raising awareness 
  • update collaborative and technical infrastructures
  • preservation of thousands of digital artworks

The project partners

Participating collections
Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), De Appel (Amsterdam), Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam), Groninger Museum (Groningen), Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency (collection department (Rijswijk), Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo), Rijksakademie (Amsterdam), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Bonnefanten Museum (Maastricht), Centraal Museum (Utrecht), Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem), LI-MA (Amsterdam), KRC Collection (Voorschoten), Rabo Art Collection (Utrecht) and the BPD Art Collection (Amsterdam)

Advising parties
The Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (SMBK) and the Dutch Digital Heritage Network (NDE)

The project is made possible by the generous support of
The Mondriaan Fund, Prince Bernard Cultural Fund and the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund