LIMA Workshop E-depot SBMK seminar 2013

The increasing presence of technology in society has had a big impact on the arts. Technology not only becomes more advanced, but also more decisive and important. It has changed the ways in which art can be produced, presented, preserved and documented.  The rapid development of technology creates new, improved and exciting possibilities. At the same time it also makes older technology, on which some particular artworks rely on, to become obsolete. Not only equipment, but also technological knowledge is threatened to disappear.

The process of storing and preserving new media artworks is not like the preservation of traditional artforms, nor like regular information storage. New media artworks and born-digital artworks need a specific preservation system: an E-Depot. LIMA is among the global pioneers in the digital preservation of media artworks. On the SBMK seminar 2013, LIMA director Gaby Wijers and technical head of LIMA Wiel Seuskens shared their knowledge on the E-Depot in a workshop.

Among the workshop participants were concervators, art historians, registrars and representatives of several Dutch museums and institutions that all face the challenge of creating sustainable storage and accessibility for their media art collections. 

Video artworks have been collected and presented by most Dutch museums and institutions since the 1970‘s. Although this is just one type among many new media art forms, it makes a good example in illustrating the problems of preservation and sustainable accessibility. Most early video artworks are stored on tapes. They require specific equipement to be played. In order to preserve the artwork, solely storing the physical material will not stand the test of time. Wiel Seuskins explaines what technical steps should be taken when it comes to insuring future presentation of these artworks. The tape needs to be digitised and stored in an E-depot. In the process of digitisation potential damaged components need to be restored. In this way a backup of the original tape is created. A safe tape backup file format is .tar, which is also commonly used by universities to store their data. It collects many files into one larger file for distribution or archiving while preserving file system information.

In addition to the digitisation and technical imput of material Gaby Wijers explains the other components of E-depot management. When artworks are translated to computer files the issues of authenticity and responsibility come in play. The artwork is no longer a physical unique and static object. Art historically it is of great importance that changes are documented to secure the authenticity of the work. She underlines the importance of the artist’s involvement and participation in the process of digital preservation. 

With guidelines, strategies workshops and advices LIMA can help other institutions to structure their E-depot. Through sharing knowledge, museums and institutions can collectively work on a continuous translation of media art to current time and technology. 

Images from the SBMK day and LIMA workshop