On October 29th, PACKED vzw organized a free workshop on sustainable digital preservation for artists and arts organizations at iMAL. In this report, you can find a summary of the day and all the presentations.

Morning

In the morning workshop we focused on the threats and strategies on the preservation of digital files and objects. The general message was to act proactively. Only by doing this, you can see the threats, as obsolete technology and unreliable carriers, and work out a strategy for the preservation of your digital archive and collection. The strategies vary from doing nothing to emulation, but there is not one fix-it-all solution. A long time preservation is nothing more than a chain of short-term solutions. Digital preservation is a combination of technical solutions and making proper arrangements.

Afternoon

In the afternoon, there were some practical case studies, which illustrated the theory of the morning workshop.

First on was Ben Fino-Radin, who is Media Conservation at MoMA and professor at NYU MIAP. He talked about the work he did as digital preservation consultant for Cory Arcangel, Jodie and Laurie Spiegel. The essential goals in digital preservation for artists are to establish intellectual control, centralizing your assets, to distribute redundantly and to establish bit preservation.

The presentation by Wim Lowet (CVAa) and Henk Vanstappen (Datable) was on the creation and preservation of born digital architecture archives. Architects and architectural companies are using a lot of complex digital file formats as CAD. This technology is not only complex, it's seldom open and there are problems with the backward compatibility. In the preservation, choices have to be made and the costs and gains have to be considered in the long term.

Nova is a movie theatre in Brussels. The archive consists of papers, objects, audiovisual materials, but also the archive of the ABC cinema, an erotic movie theatre that has been closed since 2013. Some parts of the archive need to be digitized, but the whole ABC-archive need to be preserved also as the digital archive of Nova themselves. By making an overview, the actions are now being set. Under consideration is also to transfer the archive to an archival institution as AMVB (archive of the Flemish live in Brussels).

The last presentation was about the archive of iMAL themselves. As an art organization the archive contains both administrative and artistic files and documents, on paper and digital. The action in the archive started by making an overview of both the paper and digital archive, using existing tools and software. This overview is the starting point for further actions and recommendations to minimize the loss of information. At iMAL, there was also a volunteer who helped with making the overview. When working with volunteers, there are also some things to keep in mind.

More information?

For more information or questions on digital preservation in the arts, you can contact us, using the contact form.