Virtueel Platform Research | ARCHIVING THE DIGITAL

Published on January 26th, 2011


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Virtueel Platform takes the online software art repository Runme.org, the internet based-art commissioning and exhibition platform Turbulence.org, and the electronic art preservation research project AktiveArchive as cases for exploring the different ways organisations deal with the preservation of software and internet-based artworks. The main question we raised was: how does the structure of an arts organisation relate to the issues it faces, and the possible strategies and solutions it uses when attempting to deal with the preservation and archiving of software and internet-based art?

ARCHIVING THE DIGITAL

Annet Dekker with Rachel Somers-Miles, edited by Rachel Feuchtwang
Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform, 2011

CONTENT

1. Runme.org
• Historical background
• Concept
• Website: the repository, an alternative anti-institutional framework
• Maintenance
• Finances
• Archival approach
• Documentation
• Conclusion

2. Turbulence
• Historical background
• Concept
• Website: submission policy and contractual agreements
• Maintenance
• Finances
• Archival approach
• Selection and documentation
• Conclusion

3. Aktive Archive
• Historical background
• Concept
• Method
• Finances
• Archival approach
• Selection and documentation
• Conclusion
• Postcript

4. Conclusions Archiving the Digital
• Concept
• Method
• Funding
• Organisational structure
• Challenges

5. References & Bibliography

INTRODUCTION

Many arts projects and organisations are facing the challenge of having to procure the longevity of their digital collections. Upcoming preservation initiatives are important sites of investigation, as they both raise questions and offer possible strategies or solutions through which other initiatives can learn.

In May 2009 Virtueel Platform organised Archive 2020, an expert meeting that focused on the longevity and sustainability of born digital content produced by cultural organisations or practitioners.1] The term ‘born digital’ refers to “digital materials that are not intended to have an analogue equivalent, either as the originating source or as a result of conversion to analogue form”. 2] The aim of the expert meeting was to examine existing examples of these types of archives and determine which issues need to be addressed if we are to champion their growth in the short and long term. Representatives from international museums, organisations and artists’ initiatives convened in Amsterdam in May 2009 for a frank dialogue regarding the current state of born digital archives. The meeting provided a unique opportunity for major collecting institutes and small artists’ archives to reconsider the ways in which archives of born digital cultural content are created, managed, disseminated and preserved. This meeting of professionals and peers was foremost an inventory of the challenges associated with born digital archives. In this sense, the meeting was notable for the forum it provided for sharing and comparing experiences and priorities. One of the outcomes was the need for a shared knowledgebase that would provide examples of case studies, for example to examine existing archives and how they function, as well as publish examples of best practices and unsuccessful strategies.3] In an attempt to foster such a learning process Virtueel Platform decided to examine three organisations that are dealing with born digital content.

In this Virtueel Platform Research Virtueel Platform takes the online software art repository Runme.org, the internet based-art commissioning and exhibition platform Turbulence.org, and the electronic art preservation research project AktiveArchive as cases for exploring the different ways organisations deal with the preservation of software and internet-based artworks. The main question we raised was: how does the structure of an arts organisation relate to the issues it faces, and the possible strategies and solutions it uses when attempting to deal with the preservation and archiving of software and internet-based art?

Additional questions that were raised were: does the organisational structure lead to specific strategies, and how do these influence the development of a methodology for caring for born digital artworks? The three cases were chosen because they represent seminal initiatives in the history of media arts, all have different organisational structures, and all approach the preservation of software and internet-based art from different angles and backgrounds:

In the following the three organisations will be described and analysed. The final chapter gives a comparison between the three and an attempt is made to answer the questions we set ourselves in this Virtueel Platform Research.

The case studies are based on analysis of conversations with key actors from each initiative. The method we used is based on interviews, live where possible but otherwise through email and skype exchanges. Primary and secondary literature was used for the description of the organisations’ goals and history and also as a reflection on the significance of the organisations in the wider field.

For the interviews we set up an initial set of questions that we posed to all three of the organisations in order to compare their strategies. Although the organisations are dealing with born digital content, we soon found out that there are quite substantial differences between them, which meant that we adjusted the questionnaire to each specific case. In the end we discovered several topics that were relevant to all three organisations and which also shed light on issues that are important for novices in the field to learn from or at least be aware of. The result is a qualitative study rather than a research paper and un-credited comments are taken from the conversations we had with the different persons from each initiative.

Appreciation and many thanks for their dedication, time and energy go to Olga Goriunova and Amy Alexander (Runme. org), Jo-Anne Green and Helen Thorington (Turbulence), Tim Murray (Rose Goldsen Archive), and Tabea Lurk and Jürgen Enge (AktiveArchive).

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1] Virtueel Platform organised the event in consultation with Digital Heritage Netherlands, The Netherlands Institute for Heritage and Netherlands Media Art Institute.

2] Sourced from the list of Definitions and Concepts on the Digital Preservation Coalition website: http://www.dpconline.org/ad- vice/introduction-definitions-and-concepts. html. (accessed January 2011).

3] A report of the meeting including the discussion topics and outcomes can be read in Archive2020. Sus- tainable Archiving of Born Digital Cultural Content (Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform). For download or order http://www.virtueel-platform.nl/#2950 (accessed January 2011).


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