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Sunday, May 15 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Electronic Media) How Sustainable is File-based Video Art? Exploring the Foundations for Best Practice Development

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The acquisition of file-based video artworks into museum collections charged with ensuring their long-term viability and accessibility presents conservators and collection caretakers with many challenges. Masters and exhibition copies are delivered to museums as video files in a variety of wrappers, codecs, and compression factors, selected by the artists for deliberate or incidental reasons. Video file sustainability has been a focus of many discussions within the archival and preservation communities over the last several years, and some museums are now stipulating specific file deliverables and/or are normalizing artist-provided files to uncompressed formats for long-term preservation and access. Key concerns about the longevity of file-based video are (1) insufficient self-documentation due to inconsistent or incomplete metadata, (2) unannounced redesigns and updates of proprietary codecs by the industry, (3) incompatibilities with codec successors, (4) inconsistent file playback on software players due to industry changes to codec libraries or interpretation parameters of video image and sound, (5) legal restrictions on the exchange and dissemination of proprietary codec libraries, and (6) the lack of implemented practices for monitoring and quality control for file-based video, on the artist’s side and the museum’s side. This paper aims to explore these and further issues observed in daily practice at the Media Conservation Lab of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and is the product of a research consortium that was formed as part of an ongoing collaboration between the Guggenheim Conservation Department and the Master's degree program in Conservation at the Berne University of the Arts (Switzerland). The authors of the paper employed a research methodology that included literature review, practical tests, and interviews with internationally recognized experts engaged with codec development, software engineering, copyright law, archiving and conservation of digital video. The present study highlights specific areas of consensus around the risks and factors affecting sustainability, discusses different preservation strategies, and aims to contribute to the development of a basis for establishing best practices for the future acquisition of file-based video art.

avatar for Sophie Bunz

Sophie Bunz

MA Student at Berne University of the Arts, Berne University of the Arts
Sophie Bunz is currently completing a Masters program in Conservation of Modern Materials and Media at the University of Arts in Berne, Switzerland. She previously worked at the Schaulager in Basel, with conservator Andreas Hoppmann in his studio in Cologne and Dipl. Rest. Katharina... Read More →
avatar for Brian Castriota

Brian Castriota

Conservator, National Museums Scotland
Brian Castriota is a conservator specialized in the conservation of time-based media and installation artworks. A graduate of the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, he has worked as a contract conservator for time-based media artworks at the Smithsonian American Art... Read More →

Flaminia Fortunato

MA Student, University of the Arts, Berne
Flaminia Fortunato is currently a Master's student in Conservation and Restoration of Modern Materials and Media at the University of the Arts in Berne, Switzerland. Prior to this academic engagement, she completed an 8-month internship at the Laboratories of the Royal Institute for... Read More →


Carole Maître

MA Student at Berne University of the Arts, Berne University of the Arts
Carole Maître is currently a Master's student in Conservation-Restoration of Modern Materials and Media at the University of Arts in Berne, Switzerland. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Conservation-Restoration of Scientific, Technical and Horological Objects from the University... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 513 D/F