Technical Standards in the Care of Time-Based and Digital Art

This week, the Smithsonian Interview Project released a summary of ten insights from artists and experts in the field about technical standards and the care of time-based media and digital art.

From the introduction:

A hundred years from now, how can museums plug in and turn on today’s time-based 
media and digital artworks? 

Time-based media artworks are characteristically unstable, unique, and complex. They 
often depend on operating systems, materials, and hardware that rapidly obsolesce. They 
may rely on audiences interacting with them in specific environments that will not exist in 
the future. Future installers may not be sure exactly what they can and cannot do with 
these works if they wish to respect an artist’s original intent. In light of these considerations, what are the prospects for effective stewardship of time-based media artworks over the long haul?

In 2013, interviewers from the Smithsonian’s Time-Based Media Art Working Group and 
the Smithsonian Office of Policy and Analysis posed this question to over two dozen 
experts in the creation, curation, installation, conservation, and preservation of time-based media art and related materials. The interviews focused on two themes:

  • The role of standards, guidelines and professional best practices in the long-term preservation of time-based media art.
  • Appropriate education and training for time-based media-art preservation professionals.

Despite the enormous challenges of long-term preservation of media art, the interviewees were optimistic about the prospects for continuous improvement of practices in this area.

Read the full report