March 30, 1996, Morning
DEIRDRE BOYLE: I found myself in Moscow, teaching video at the State University and organizing what may have been the first American video art exhibition there. And I was interviewed by some artists and journalists, and in my halting Russian, I attempted to explain what I was doing. If any of you speak Russian, you may get the impact of this. I said to them, "[Russian sentence]," which seemed to be a fairly serious thing, but people really looked at me very strangely. Somebody pulled me aside and told me that what I had told them was that I had written a book about video condoms. And I find that this has given new life to the concept of making video last. On a more serious note, my interest in video preservation as a phenomenon began in the early 80s, when I began research on a book on 70s documentary video. And at that time, it was quite an odyssey for me to travel around the country, trying to track down collections and video pioneers. And, I became part of that, perhaps not the first wave but at least it was for me, of people who went to places like New Orleans tracking down tapes, finding, when I located the title that I'd been searching for, when I opened it, the creepy crawly fungus that has been alluded to, and the sickeningly sweet smell and the white dust, and the problems when you put the half-inch videotape on the reel and the great sense of frustration as a scholar and researcher at not being able to see what it was that I had longed to see. At that time, many people believed that was the end, and in fact, artists and activists and arts centers were throwing out boxes of tapes, believing that they were unrecoverable. And I'm happy to say that nearly 15 years later, that situation has changed dramatically. So I begin this session with a feeling of cautious optimism. I'll speak about guarded pessimism later, but cautious optimism, because I think a tremendous amount has been done in terms of the technological research, the sharing of information, the creation of partnerships that have made the task of retrieving, cataloguing, identifying works that are of cultural significance - all of the efforts that are involved of great consequence are progressing and, along with this, in 1991, the Media Alliance Arts Advocacy Organization in New York State convened the first Media Arts Symposium on video preservation, and many of the people who were in the room at the Museum of Modern Art for that meeting are here today. And the sense of continuity is felt, and the sense of ever-widening circles of involvement, and I see that as a very hopeful sign. We produced, a year later, a publication to which I referred earlier, Video Preservation: Insuring the Future of the Past, which was a summary of the technical research that had been done, the information that was in the process of being shared, some case studies and some directions for people to pursue in terms of finding resources and experts and funding sources, and just courage, hopefulness in this area. At the time of that conference, the Bay Area Video Coalition was just contemplating the idea of creating its video preservation project, and it's really remarkable how much has happened in that rather short space of time. So, as someone who's looked at this field now, over, well, my involvement is over twenty years, but the preservation aspects certainly date back to the early 80s. I see a considerable amount of progress, and for those of you who come to this arena in a fairly - some of these issues are perhaps new to you, because video as a preservation issue is only being thrust into your burdensome domain. There is a history that I think is quite useful, and encouraging. Listening to "The Juggernaut of Technology" yesterday, I felt myself somewhat discouraged, and I don't know if this is a commonly held feeling - perhaps it was just the end of the day, but I feel the need, at least for myself, to balance the sense of the impossibility of the ever-changing cycle of technology with the fact that so much has already been done for this very important area.
I'd like to make another announcement. The legendary Jim Wheeler referred to giving testimony a couple of weeks ago in Washington at the Library of Congress hearing, and I think it's worth saying something more about this, because the issue of the national agenda around video preservation is of, I think, compelling interest to all of us. It embraces the museum world as much as it does the world of television news, archives and libraries and other sources for the cultural record. And one of the changes that I've seen in the last five years is the fact that when the film preservation study was done, video was absolutely excluded. There was no question that video would be considered a legitimate archival medium, and it's remarkable that in five years' time a report is being produced, research is being done now on the state of the preservation of television and video, and I think even though the hearings now have ended, the deadline for submission of written testimony is still there - it's April 28, and I'll give you the phone number of Steve Leggett at the Library of Congress, and if you would like to submit a written statement of your concerns, they are especially interested in recommendations, practical suggestions as to how to begin to establish national priorities, as well as standards for video preservation. So I think many people in this room are in a position to contribute in a significant way.
I'd really like to make three brief points today, and then bring on the spokespersons for the different working groups this morning. One that's very, very important is that we need to have a broader definition of video art than I think has necessarily been apparent in the last day. This comes out of my own interest in the early days of video, when video art was the concept applied to everything that was made in video. And artists were anybody who picked up the camera and worked, whether they were Richard Serra, coming out of the world of the Academy, or whether it was a community group who were exploring what could be done with the video medium and everything in between. Woody Vasulka, who is here, is probably a very good example of what I'm referring to. The Vasulkas made experimental videos and they also made documentary tapes. Steina has often made this point, that they were as interested in documenting what was happening in the late sixties and seventies, going and recording performances of the living theater, as much as they were involved in the construction of new tools and experimenting with the electronic signal. The Vasulkas are not alone in this. This is also a good point to remind you that this is your last opportunity here to see the wonderful show that they have upstairs on the fourth floor. The Vasulkas are a good example of artists who represented the broad spectrum of video production. And since decisions are going to be made by many of the people in this room, many of whom are relatively new to video, this breadth of history is as important as anything else in making decisions about what does and doesn't get recorded. Our first speaker today will be talking about installation art, and in fact, the early installation works were as much documentary works as they were experimental in terms of sculptural and painterly concerns. In the Bay Area, Skip Sweeney was as involved in working with video feedback forms as he was in creating one of the most marvelous and absurdist documentaries of the period, a project called Carel and Ferd, which was the underground version of An American Family, a story that detailed the marriage of a bisexual junkie and an ex-porn star, who consummated their marriage on video and then traveled cross-country. And this was presented in an installation format here in the Bay Area, and was part of the art movement of the period. So, in thinking about what constitutes video art, the idea of documentary or documentation that may apply in other arenas, I think, has to be broadened. And I think the other historical point that I would make is that in drawing the analogy with the history of motion pictures, most archivists of film do not find it anomalous to include documentary, newsreel, experimental film, animation, along with narrative fiction works in the category of what is significant in terms of the history of the art of film, and I think these same concepts need to apply when thinking about video as well. There's my little pitch for broader terminology.
The other point I wanted to make, which is perhaps the guardedly pessimistic one, is that listening yesterday to the speakers who detailed what seemed to me, living in a more marginal world than the educational arena, a luxurious universe. Perhaps influenced by the grandeur of this building, it was easy to succumb to this. This is sort of the blandishments of an order where one could gently consider ethical considerations out of the context of economic and political and social ones. And I think that perhaps it's an uncomfortable thing to interject at this point, but we live in a time when art is anathema. And we can consider in a very serious way the differentiations between what should and shouldn't be considered an original at a time when all of art is under attack. And certainly much of the art that we are concerned with here, when looking at it historically, is work that covers a period of time that's much in contention, whether looked at from the point of view of the antiestablishment values that were celebrated in the 60s and the 70s, the emerging of identity politics, however you may look at it. In a time when there's less and less money for the production of art, the preservation of art that bespeaks a different time, a different order, a different set of values, is going to be, I think, endangered, let's put it that way. And I think that this context somehow needs to be brought into the larger discussion of preservation. Our enemy may not be technology, even though it may seem to be that way. I think that the enemy is more often in human form, or inhuman form, depending how you may look at it. And we need to bring this into the larger debate for consideration.
And then my last point, because I can't end on a dark note, is that I think the most encouraging thing for me about being here and seeing the change in preservation attitudes and information about preservation, is this ever-widening network of partnerships that's being formed. Yesterday evening in the reception, I had a very stimulating conversation with a book restorer who's probably here - Pat Conroy - about the relationship perhaps of video preservation to decisions that were made by the Byzantine Empire as they effected the selection of which Greek plays would be preserved, something to do with a preference in attic rhetoric. I'm not quite sure what that means, but I suspect that some of the concerns that we, coming out of the media arts field, have about decisions of what will and won't survive, and the extreme importance of this in the sense that this has never been decided before. We have a lot to learn from people who have been dealing with the issues of selection and preservation down through the millennia. And that perhaps the questions that we're facing with video are not, again, necessarily going to be solved through an understanding of new technology, but thinking about the ways in which old technology have influenced decisions. Video may have more in common with 14th century illuminated manuscripts than they do with the books of the Gutenberg era, even though we are in an age of mechanical or electronic reproduction. So I find it very inspiring to think about the cross-fertilization of ideas and philosophical paradigms that can be borrowed upon. At moments yesterday, when I was feeling frustrated and hearing about the ephemerality of video, I found myself thinking of what I consider to be truly ephemeral art forms, for example, the Tibeten sand paintings that are produced over a laborious period of time, and when they're completed, then returned to the river. There is no preservation of these objects, nor of, say, Hopi sand paintings. And I think there are times when conservators would wish that video was as ephemeral as that medium. But I think the challenge of preservation is no more important than when one looks at the lingering impact of art objects that go back thousands of years. If you look at the cave paintings in France, work that was not meant to last years, centuries, eons, and yet now we are faced with the technological and cultural responsibility of securing these images as a way of reflecting somehow on our human artistic experience, it makes the issues of video dwindle and seem much more manageable. At least, I like to think so. Now I'd like to introduce our first speaker, who is Mark Roosa, the Chief Preservation Officer at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Mark is going to be speaking on behalf of the working group on installation art and obsolete hardware, and I'm going to just briefly read to you the people who worked on this group. They are: David Bradshaw at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jim Druzik, the Getty Conservation Institute, Dan Einstein, the University of California at Los Angeles, John Hanhardt, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Mark Harnly, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Paul Karlstrom of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Julie Lazar, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Marisa Leal, the National Latino Communications Center, Linda Mabalot, Visual Communications, Art Nomura, video artist, Eddie Richmond, Association of Moving Image Archivists, Victoria Vesna, University of California at Santa Barbara, and Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, video artists. So a rather extraordinary group of people are going to be represented by Mark.
MARK ROOSA: Good morning everyone. It's nice to be here, and it's nice to be able to speak on behalf of the working group on maintaining technology-based installation works. Our working group is made up of a real mix of people: archivists, curators, conservation specialists, video experts and artists. And our assigned task was to look into preserving technology-based installation art, including digital and analog media. At our first meeting, the group was amazed at how little we seemed to collectively know about our subject, but as the meeting progressed, we found that in spite of our seeming ignorance, each of us could offer some small bits of information to help identify key questions and to begin to assemble a body of pertinent issues. So in the next half hour or so, I'd like to describe some of the issues that we came up with, and cover a couple of different areas. I'd like to start by identifying from an established conservation perspective, some of the fundamental distinctions between traditional media-based works of art - paintings, sculpture, rare books, objects of all kinds - and technology-based installation works, with an emphasis on some of the problems that these works pose for the conservator.
Second, I'd like to discuss some of the factors that make the maintenance of installation art pretty difficult. Third and last, I'd like to propose a few ideas that our group feels might help with the long-term preservation of installation works.
Conservators, collection managers, and curators in museums, libraries and archives are fairly well acquainted, I think, with the range of preservation and conservation challenges posed by traditional media. Over the course of the past several hundred years, research and treatment histories have developed, and a sizable literature has been amassed to aid in the preservation and conservation of paintings, sculpture, rare books and other kinds of objects. Now, this is not to say that we've found solutions to all possible conservation problems, just that we are well on our way to understanding how and why most organic-based objects deteriorate. Based on years of working with these objects and observing their use, we understand a fair bit about many of the chemical and the mechanical causes of deterioration. Years of accumulated practical experience and theoretical investigations have also produced documentation procedures and working guidelines for conservators. Now, this body of knowledge clearly hasn't developed in a vacuum. Inextricably tied to the development of conservation techniques has been the development of parallel systems to describe works of art as they are acquired by an institution, a collector or a dealer, or other individuals. And by working with these records, a conservator has access to the world in which a work was created, including data regarding how a work was created, the materials used, issues of ownership, and facts regarding any prior conservation treatment. These data form a context in which the conservator operates, one that provides a necessary basis for treatment proposals and any subsequent conservation work. I'd like to focus for a minute on this business of parallel information, such as cataloguing records and literature about the objects themselves, because it's the one area where traditional art differs significantly from technology-based works. Typically, as most of you may know, when a painting, drawing or rare book is accessioned into a museum or an institution, its characteristics are documented and catalogued, and standards for doing this vary considerably, depending on local, regional or national practice, the medium, and perhaps even the way in which the piece is intended to be used. A museum registrar may, for example, record the salient features of a painting to provide an institution with a catalogue record of that item that will serve a variety of purposes, including, for example, insurance appraisal prior to loan or exhibit, collection inventory and management purposes, and even, possibly, conservation. A library may choose to catalogue a rare book for many of the same reasons, as well as to record features that may make a book unique or valuable. This is frequently done using standard documentation protocols, such as the Library of Congress subject headings, or other more detailed methods. Description information may then be translated into an automated environment, such as the MARC or machine readable cataloguing format, that makes possible the wide area distribution of this information. Under these circumstances, if either a painting or a rare book should require conservation treatment, and if the work has been properly documented at the beginning of its life in a museum, the conservator will have at his or her disposal a substantial amount of information about the piece, including knowledge of its history, composition and perhaps any prior conservation work. This documentation may also provide evidence of provenance, allowing the conservator to place a work within its proper historical context. Such records in the case of rare books may, for example, contain information that describes unique features that may need to be preserved or conserved during in treatment, such as book plates, binding or covering elements, added pages, advertisements and so on.
With ample documentation in hand, the conservator, working with a code of treatment ethics, a firm knowledge of traditional conservation techniques, and the ability to investigate the literature if need be, can proceed with confidence to treat an object. This roughly describes the current relationship between conservator and traditional object. A relationship that assumes understanding of medium and support will ideally lead to the accepted goal of stabilizing and preserving objects over time.
Technology-based installation works, on the other hand, lack almost entirely a tradition of documentation. Part of the reason for this, the group feels, is that the medium is relatively young compared to the traditional forms that I've mentioned. Another reason the documentation is scarce is because much of what is known about the maintenance of installation works resides outside of the museum and conservation communities, with electrical engineers, audio and video recording specialists, television technicians, and increasingly, within the computer world.
Technology-based pieces differ from traditional works in other ways. Because they are plugged in and running most of the time, they deteriorate continually. While their component parts may be designed to withstand a constant flow of electrons, picture tubes do burn out. On and off transients wear out relays in equipment, electrical surges, for example, tax circuitry, the continual application of heat in a system will degrade parts, cause them to wear out, and tape machines, cameras and so on, switches fail over time. And machine failure, as we know, is unpredictable, and this is frustratingly so, partly because manufacturers do not provide life expectancies for their products. And we've also not asked for this information, for the most part, although there have been some efforts in this area in recent years. We may hear more about that later one. These basic differences mean that conservators must develop new approaches to the conservation and maintenance of installation art. In doing so, we must seek solutions to some of the following problems - and I've touched on a few of them already. The first one, there is no body of literature. No tradition of preventive or remedial conservation treatments exists for technology-based works. At least, it's not as accessible. I know there are a few museums in this country and throughout the world that are amassing documentation about the installations they own or the ones that come to them on loan, but that information needs to be more widely shared, certainly within the conservation community. Such a literature in its dissemination, might include, for example, a manual of maintenance routines for specific pieces of equipment operating in various modes. Repair tips for specific pieces of equipment. Another useful item of history might be NC2 performance feedback about various pieces in various installations, including case studies for pieces maintained over a period of time. The group feels that this situation, this lack of generally available information will probably change, as more and more pieces are installed and as efforts are made to collect data about the installations and how pieces perform over time. But there needs to be a vehicle for sharing this information, and I'll get to this a little bit later.
A second problem is that a standard means for documenting the salient features of a piece is lacking. And this is perhaps the most glaring omission from a conservation perspective. Lacking basic data in a standard format, the conservator is working in the dark, and maintenance solutions are often left to trial and error. As was mentioned yesterday, in conservation we have this standard way of documenting works as they come in. For video installation works, I don't think there is that sort of protocol yet, and I'll touch on that a little bit later in my talk.
A third problem is that few resources exist for stabilizing and maintaining the technology. Service bureaus, vendors and technical experts either do not yet exist to any meaningful extent, or are not well-identified, or their qualifications are not well known within the museum and conservation communities. We are fortunate to have a few technical experts here at this conference who've provided us with a lot of useful data, and it's wonderful to have them and to share and benefit from their knowledge and expertise, but in general, I think that more experts are needed. They're probably out there, it's just that they're not well-identified.
Another problem is that good information regarding the whereabouts of hardware replacement parts if lacking. And this was, again, touched on a little bit yesterday. It would be nice if a union list of equipment repositories could be created, and this would help institutions maintain their machinery to a much better degree than is now possible, and perhaps even anticipate when a piece of hardware or software might be reaching obsolescence. Another problem area is that the technology issues, many of which were discussed yesterday, are not well understood by conservators in general. They're often not well understood by people who are creating the works, because of the experimental nature of much of the work. Due to the complex and changing nature of installation art which is being defined and redefined by the industry, by technologists, artists and others, understanding the technology means understanding hardware and software language, and understanding the component parts of installations and their ever-changing relationship to one another within an institution. So there are a number of different factors - it's not just understanding, for example, how a tape deteriorates or how machines need to be maintained. It's understanding the complete artwork, and its ever-changing relationship to the museum, to the viewer, to the pieces within the piece.
And another area is that there is no code of ethics for the treatment and maintenance of installation art. The working group on ethics touched on this yesterday, touched on some of the broad areas that we need to be thinking about as we approach these works, and as we attempt to maintain them over time. But in general, it's a pretty fuzzy area.
On the points noted above, our group feels that the lack of a commonly shared documentation system and the lack of a central repository for equipment are the two issues that require the most immediate attention. When a component part of an installation piece begins to fall apart, or fails, the museum must decide the best and most practical way to fix it. Suitable replacement parts must be located, and if they cannot be found, a piece may sit dormant or even may need to be deinstalled. What is considered suitable depends on who you talk to. The artist may, for example, insist that a broken component be replaced with an exact original. And this, of course, becomes problematic if the piece was created 25 years ago, and the replacement part may no longer be available. Lacking input from the artist, a museum curator, for example, may decide that the broken piece be replaced with something as close as possible to the original. Sometimes the artist will be available for consultation, but this is not always the case. Instead, museums must often second-guess an artist's intent and make repairs or replace parts based on what is available or what is thought to be the most reasonable solution. Thus, the search for creative solutions when the technology fails is often necessarily subjective. One of the main problems with installation works is that they can be maintenance intensive. When the pieces run, they run fine. When component parts fail, however, an entire piece may shut down. Now this inherent tendency - or inherent vice, as we like to say sometimes in the preservation field - is completely unlike works created using traditional materials, traditional artworks. These works can deteriorate over time and still be read, consulted, viewed and generally appreciated. To complicate matters, little is commonly known about the maintenance needs of installation works. While an artist may know the intimate details of a piece, as well as some of its inherent idiosyncrasies regarding some of the components of a piece, it's not clear whether this information is generally communicated to the museum or ever finds its way into the conservator's hands. So when parts fail, it's usually crisis time. A situation made especially difficult if an artist's intent is not well known; even if the intention is well known, replacement parts may no longer be available. And determining whether parts are available can be an amazingly time consuming process, and one that is costly in the long run.
Preventive maintenance routines carried out by a museum or an institution or by conservation staff clearly can help postpone equipment failure. In the conservation field, for example, much emphasis has been placed on preventive strategies in recent years, controlling the environment, protecting vulnerable parts of a collection with enhanced security and basic stabilization, and essentially controlling all of the factors that lead to deterioration is the chief focus of preventive conservation. Our group felt in our discussions that similar strategies need to be developed for installation pieces. And one step in this direction would be for artists and curators to work together to compile a list of basic maintenance information, a manual, you could say. And it might include, for example, operating manuals for all of the equipment components in a piece, including operating procedures for installing the various components of the piece, and service schedules for the various pieces of equipment. Power supply and surge protection requirements, cleaning and maintenance procedures for tape machines, for cameras, and finally, instructions for the periodic refreshment and copying of software. Even with this information in hand, some problems are bound to occur once a piece is installed; this is inevitable. Marshall Reese and Nora Ligarano, two New York City artists who work with installation pieces, note for example that while they provide installers with much of the above information, that there are always small problems. For example, the audio level of a piece may be lowered once it's installed to accommodate a public event in the museum, and proper levels may not be reset. That's a simple problem, but if you think about what could happen once a piece is installed and out of the control of the installers or the artists installing it, there are all kinds of variables that come into play. Their feeling is that it's ideal for an artist to prepare, unpack and set up a piece, and then check periodically on its maintenance needs.
Our group also thinks that museums, artists and conservators need to begin working more closely together to compile pertinent documentation, especially as a piece is acquired. The time to do this, it seems to us, is when negotiations between a museum and an artist begin for the acquisition or installation of a piece. As this is the time when written agreements, contracts and other documents are prepared, it seems fitting that it should also be the time when decisions are made regarding the short or long term maintenance of the piece. At this point, some museums may or should decide that they can't accept responsibility for the long term care of a piece due to limited staff, resources or space. The commitment may simply be too great. During these early stage negotiations, an artist will need to make his or her intentions clear about the intended life expectancy of a piece, and how the piece will be maintained over time, to the extent that they're able to do that. In other words, should a museum maintain the piece with original parts, use different but similar replacements, or let the piece run down or age naturally, as an iron sculpture installed out of doors might, existing only once in its as-installed form, and then weathering and changing indefinitely over time.
Since our group sees this up-front agreement as the crux of all subsequent preservation activity, the focus of our work has been on defining some basic data elements that can be assembled into a documentation package, to be used as sort of a meta-data file for installation works. This documentation could exist in machine-readable form, but should most certainly also exist in hard copy, and it should accompany the work and exist somewhere else, as well. As an extension of this idea, the group believes that a central repository for this information should be created and made available online, so that it is available to museum and conservation professionals.
The data elements that would accompany a piece can be divided into two types. The first type is the information that describes the hardware and software, and how a piece fits together, and information regarding the artist's intent for maintaining the piece. The installation, meta-data or documentation about how a work was created, and how it is assembled, would include such items as photographs, drawings, schematics, parts lists, wiring diagrams and possibly sources for replacement parts, if known. One of our working group members, Victoria Vesna, an artist who works within the realm of digital and analog sound and moving image, has some experience compiling this kind of documentation for her works, and based on some of her suggestions, and input from other working group members, we drafted a generic documentation form that attempts to cover some of the areas that we hope will help a museum maintain a work. I should add also that the members of the group felt that it would be ideal to have several levels of compliance with regard to supplying this kind of work, in other words, a basic level - a minimum level, I guess, a middle level, and then an ideal level that would have every possible bit of information that could be known. So, in essence, the basic documentation package would include several of the following items. First, a videotaped interview with the artist on some common format; a transcript of the interview; a full description of the installation, including, as I mentioned, a complete list of hardware and software components with manufacturers' documentation; a detailed description of how to set up the piece and troubleshoot it, including relevant schematics and working drawings; a list of names and phone numbers of who to call should the piece not work as designed, including the artist's number and/or the installers, or the people who handle that for the artist.
Now I'd like to refer to a handout that I hope you were able to pick up on the table outside that is a one-page draft called Artist and Museum Agreement Regarding the Long-Term Maintenance of a Technology-Based Installation Work. I'll go through that at this point. Regarding artist's intent, additional essential information related to intent should also be included in the dossier. A statement that clearly outlines the extent to which, and method by which, a piece is to be maintained, would be the central focus for this part of the package. And this one page sheet that we put together, even though it's a bit simplistic, as it is in this draft, I think gets to some of the questions that need to be included in this part of the dossier. For example, just right up front: "Do you wish the piece to deteriorate on its own accord, and not be maintained or preserved by the museum?" This is pretty basic. "Yes, maintain; no, do not; comments." The second area deals with hardware maintenance and replacement. "Over the lifetime of the piece and prolonged play, the equipment will break down, it will become unstable. When this happens, do you wish the museum to replace the affected parts or wait until they fail completely? Replace before failure, replace after failure, comments." "If and when a piece of equipment breaks, do you wish the museum to replace it with the exact model, similar model, latest model of similar size, dimensions, design, do not replace." As we were talking yesterday at the reception, the whole business of digital came up, and how some pieces can be preserved - some pieces that were created 30 years ago can be very effectively conserved and preserved using today's digital technology, so that the ideas are just as strong as they were when they were created. They're slightly different, but they're just as powerful.
The last area that we touch on regards software maintenance. "As the tapes, disks, and operating systems deteriorate, do you wish the museum to copy to exactly the same format, go to another format, etc.?" And then there's a little statement at the bottom: "By signing this agreement, I authorize the museum to maintain the piece as per my written instructions. I understand that - blah blah blah - can be changed with only mutual consent of artist and museum representative." So in a sense, it's a binding agreement.
Of course, once a museum and artist have gone to the trouble of gathering this information, it becomes incumbent upon the museum to follow the artist's directives. Again, museums will need to consider very seriously whether they will be able to do this, and whether they'll be able to accept the responsibility in terms of cost and staff time for maintaining the art according to the artist's preferences.
The other area that the group finds of great concern is the lack of a central source of information about the availability of equipment and replacement parts. Such a repository of information would contain vendor and service bureau information, manufacturers' addresses, product information, technical manuals, as well as equipment held by private, public and nonprofit organizations, including university media departments, networks, private individuals and businesses. The group felt that since BAVC is so firmly plugged into video activities in both public and private sectors, that they would be in the best position to coordinate the compilation of this resource which could be mounted on the World Wide Web and updated periodically. In addition to the above, this resource could also contain product updates and relevant educational opportunities to help fuel conservators' knowledge of the issues.
Two additional items suggested by group member Mark Harnly from the Getty, seemed worthy of inclusion here as future agenda items. He suggests that we also need to begin to think about establishing a place for this field in the major conservation organizations, such as AIC, or IIC, and encourage conservation training programs to begin to address these issues. He also suggests that conservators need a glossary of acceptable terms so that they can begin to document this type of art, and our group concurs on both points, and I'm happy that someone has already started that work with regard to terminology. But it's a good start, and we all probably have a lot more work to do in that area. I'd like to conclude by thanking the members of our working group, and also those who were not formal members, but provided valuable information for the preparation of this report. We see this document as a preliminary effort to identify some of the basic issues and areas of concern, suggesting just some solutions. Clearly, much more work needs to be done. Any questions?
MARK: I think the point of an agreement is to initiate a dialogue between artist and museum as a piece is acquired, so that the artist's intention is known, and so that there is good faith effort made by the museum to maintain the piece over time. It doesn't have to take the form of this, or even have anything to do with what I presented. It just raises the issue as an important one. I think there needs to be more up-front documentation regarding artists' intent when pieces are acquired. It's certainly difficult to go back and get clarification on intent. Clearly, intent might change over time, but what was originally thought to be temporary and ephemeral might be viewed by the artist 25 years later as something worth preserving, or recreating, as it were. Those things you can't predict, but I think the problem for conservators is that we're left really in the dark when we don't have a sense of what the intention of a piece was, and how it was viewed by the artist when it was acquired. And lacking this kind of information, it becomes very difficult to maintain the works. So that's the point of it. The language could change, it could be softened, it could be modified according to institutional preference, artist preference, legal advice, and so on. Yes?
MARK: Certainly keep a record of their existence in the piece, but you're suggesting keeping the actual pieces and putting them into sort of a cold storage or deep storage... My background is libraries and archives, and we hardly ever throw anything away. Even if it's crumbling to pieces, we'll make a surrogate copy, and we will tend to retain an awful lot of that stuff. I'm not sure why, exactly, except for the reason that you state, that it's interesting as an artifact. And certainly to show, yesterday the video clip of the exhibit of obsolete technology and older pieces was fascinating in its own way, sort of an archaeological show, more than anything else, but I think very interesting. Yes?
MARK: In our working group, we touched on this, but since the pieces are so technology-driven, since there are so many aspects, the basic bits of information that need to be known in order to reconstruct a piece, that we focused a lot on this documentation aspect. For example, with regard to the switcher, that information should certainly be included in an information dossier that would have the circuitry, so that you could reconstruct that if need be. Intent of the pieces is a little harder to get to, and hopefully, by documenting all of the various technological aspects of the piece and having a videotaped interview and a transcribed interview, and some photo stills, and all of this, it will help when we're all gone, and someone is trying to reconstruct the piece. It's no guarantee, I don't think... I think then it sort of falls to the institution who is acquiring it or accepting responsibility for the long-term maintenance of the piece to document it in a way that they see fit so that they can reconstruct it.
MARK: In libraries and archives, we do that routinely. We'll acquire part of a collection, in pieces, and some of it may not be available. We have collections in my library, for example, that have been there for many years and are not catalogued and are not accessible, essentially are in dark storage. But we anticipate that at some point, we'll bring them together with other parts of the collection, and the whole thing will be available. Yes?
MARK: That's a good idea, a creative way to raise money for the long-term maintenance of pieces through loan fees.
MARK: You're actually articulating something I touched on, and that is, the assembly of this information, and then the sharing of it with the museum and professional conservation community through a source like BAVC, which may choose to maintain a database or a site with this information on it that can be shared. One more question.
MARK: That's a great idea - shared responsibility for maintenance. We're out of time. Thanks very much for your attention.
DEIRDRE: I'm sorry to cut that discussion short. I think there's more to say than we unfortunately have time for. It's a pleasure for me now to introduce Alan Lewis, who is a colleague. Alan is the Supervisory Audio-Visual Specialist in the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch of the National Archives, comes out of television news, and brings a breadth of perspective to the subject of current preservation practice, promoting awareness and education. Alan.