Project: Preservation of Video Art (SBMK / NMAI) (2000-2002)

Posted on Fri, 09/05/2008 - 11:19
In the project 'Preservation of Video Art' a great number of video art tapes belonging to collections of Dutch museums and institutions will be converted to Digital Betacam (2000-2002). The project was preceded by the pilot project Preservation of Video Art (1999).
It is generally known that, although it is reproducible, video art does not last for ever. Even when video works are treated with great care, loss of quality will occur after seven years, and after ten years, the quality will have deteriorated visibly. In order to prevent the further deterioration of video art in public collections in the Netherlands, a great many institutions are jointly undertaking the preservation of a selection of the video art in their collections. The participants in this Project Preserving Video Art are: the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Groninger Museum, Groningen; Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, the Hague; Museum Kröller Müller, Otterlo; the Netherlands Media Art Institute MonteVideo/Time Based Arts, Amsterdam; De Pont Foundation, Tilburg; Rijksakademie, Amsterdam; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
This preservation project was initiated by the Netherlands Media Art Institute, and, in 2000, was assigned to the Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art. The digitization will be carried out by the Netherlands Media Art Institute.
Results of the project
  1. Uniformly preserved video art in a large number of representative collections
  2. The development, implementation and evaluation of a method for the preservation of video art
  3. The development, implementation and evaluation of a registration model for the preservation of video art
  4. Communication and collaboration with (international) museums and research institutes regarding the development of methodology and exchange of data, for example, via INCCA.
Method of preservation
  • Video is a coded signal. This means that a particular tape can only be played on a machine that can decode this signal into image and sound. Preservation of both the tape and equipment is virtually impossible. Instead, a preservation procedure will be carried out by which videos of seven years old or more are duplicated onto a digital format. It is not the specific technology, but rather, the original character of the work of art, the artist’s intention, the message and its effect, that have to be safeguarded.
  • In consultation with the artist, it will be decided whether or not the work will be digitised, which copy will be used for the digitisation, and the (degree of) participation of the artist in the process will be ascertained.
  • Digitisation will be based on the earliest possible generation. In practice, this will be the first or second copy, or the submaster. Later generations will only be used for digitisation if early copies have deteriorated too far. In the case of duplicates, only one of the copies will be digitised.
  • Having obtained the first or second copy or the submaster, the tapes will be tested for continuity, cleaned if necessary, and then duplicated onto Digital Betacam.
  • The works are transferred to a digital format. Tests and ongoing developments have shown that Digital Betacam is the most suitable choice for preservation. The signal is condensed 1:2, which is not visible to the naked eye.
  • In the case of older works, the original black-and-white contrast and audio frequency will be restored.
  • In order to be able to guarantee the correct tuning at presentations, all the works will be fitted with test signals.