The Art of Digital Stewardship: Content, Context, and Structure
NDSR Art Capstone Event at MICA
Friday, June 28th, 2019, 9:30am – 5:30pm
Maryland Institute College of Art
Fred Lazarus IV Center, 1st Floor Auditorium (L115)
131 West North Avenue, Baltimore, MD
As the culminating event for the National Digital Stewardship Residency for Art Information (NDSR Art), the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) will host The Art of Digital Stewardship: Content, Context, and Structure. During this symposium, NDSR Art residents from MICA’s Decker Library, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Small Data Industries will present possible solutions for the acquisition, preservation, and access of digital art and art information, from preserving born-digital documentation of the museum experience to working with at-risk artists’ archives.
Additionally, this one-day symposium will bring together digital archivists, digital curators, librarians, content creators, and artists to discuss digital art stewardship and focus on questions such as:
How are we conceptualizing the artistic process as information or as a record? How can we support artists’ engagement with the archival record? And, conversely, how can we support artists’ archival impulses?
The Art of Digital Stewardship: Content, Context, and Structure is sponsored by the Maryland Institute College of Art and the National Digital Stewardship Residency for Art Information.
This event is free and open to the public. Registration and program details will be made available soon. For more information, please visit the event’s page or contact Cristina Fontánez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NDSR Art Cohort (2018-19) Visits NYC
by Jean Moylan and Rachel Ward
Last month, we — Jean Moylan and Rachel Ward — hosted the NDSR Art (2018-19) cohort in New York City for a 3-day site visit consisting of tours, presentations, and events. Our objective was to develop a holistic itinerary that reflected both our NDSR Art Projects (Rachel is focusing on the media art ecosystem and conservation, while Jean is exploring digital preservation systems for A/V media). As such, we developed the theme of the “life cycle” of time-based media art by physically and pedagogically tracing the path of the piece from its creation in the artist’s studio, to conservation, acquisition and, ultimately, to preservation and storage in the collecting institution. Here is a look at what we put together:
Day 1: Guggenheim Offices
Jean: On the first day of the visit, Rachel and I met the rest of our NDSR Art cohort at the Guggenheim offices for a tour of the archives and afternoon of staff-led presentations. We started in the reading room, where my project supervisor Tali Han – joined by Joey Cabrera and Jillian Suarez of the Library & Archives department – gave us an overview of the Guggenheim Museum’s history, tracing from its inception as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939 to the design and construction of its current, permanent building. Describing various items she’d pulled from the archives, Tali pointed out photographs of Peggy Guggenheim with her much-adored dogs and a shot of the Museum’s first librarians, Barbara Butler and Georgine Oeri. Some other highlights included a set of Ed Ruscha’s artist books and selections from Guggenheim founding director Hilla Rebay’s personal library, featuring zany titles such as, “The Power of Faith Healing: Psychic and the Divine” and, “The Voice of the Logos: The Way to Victorious Living.”
Jean: In the afternoon session, we heard a presentation on the Panza Collection Initiative (PCI) led by Susan Wamsley (Digital Asset Manager), Cristina Linclau (Manager of Exhibitions and Collections Information), Kristen Tivey (Project Archives Assistant), and Tali. The PCI team formed in 2010 when the Guggenheim received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to preserve a collection of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual artworks that the Museum had acquired from Italian collector Giuseppe Panza di Biuomo in the early 1990’s. With this context in mind, we viewed excerpts from the artist interview and advisory committee meeting videos that had been digitized as part of the project, and we learned about the range of other materials (in various formats) that are associated with the Panza Collection. During a hands-on workshop that followed the screening, the cohort and presenters worked together to think through some of the more challenging considerations that have emerged from figuring out how to cohesively represent information about these assets across the Museum’s three main asset management, digital repository and collections information tools (MediaBeacon, ArchivesSpace, and TMS). We used printouts as stand-ins for the collection’s different content categories and placed each example in what we agreed to be its appropriate location, choosing between combinations of TMS, the Museum’s DAM, and its archival repository. While we reached no definitive conclusions (of course), we appreciated the dynamic nature of this exercise and the novel spaces it generated for thoughtful discussions surrounding the integration of digital information systems, a topic I’ve grappled with in the context of my own project.
Day 2: The Whitney and METRO
Rachel: Following an immersive tour of the private Guggenheim Offices and Archives, we spent the following morning at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The panel, graciously organized by Farris Wahbeh (Director of Research Resources) (also my ARLIS/NA mentor), provided a unique behind-the-scenes opportunity — a comprehensive overview of their new Media Preservation Initiative (MPI), a Mellon grant-funded project to implement a holistic preservation framework for the time-based media art works in the Museum’s permanent collection. Small Data Industries, my NDSR host, was hired to consult at the ground-level of this project (detailed by Farris and Ben later that day at METRO). The Whitney presentation included Farris as well as the MPI team: David Neary (Project Manager), Savannah Campbell (Preservation Specialist, Video and Digital), Christopher Bernu (Project Manager), and Brian Block (Research Fellow, Collections Information and Data). They demonstrated the process of implementing this epic, multi-year project through smaller-phased initiatives that systematically liaise the Curatorial, Conservation, Library and Archive Departments. Following this exclusive, erudite opportunity, Farris led us through the Conservation and Media Labs to introduce us to Christine Frohnert (Media Conservator) and Richard Bloes (Senior Technician). They walked us through their media art conservation and preparation process as they acquired new pieces for their current exhibition, Programmed, a momentous journey through the history of media art — an extraordinary, multi-year feat (particularly for the media conservators!).
Jean: After visiting the Whitney, the cohort made their way over to the far West side of Manhattan to attend “Safeguarding and Activating Digital Video Information,” a panel I co-organized with the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). This being my first experience organizing a public-facing panel discussion, I was equal parts excited and terrified for it to begin, but in the end extremely grateful to have Ben Fino-Radin, Farris Wahbeh, Amye McCarther, and Dave Rice as participants. Even though I’d reviewed the presenter’s abstracts in advance, I was pleasantly surprised at how varied and dynamic the discussion turned out to be. Topics ranged from preservation micro-services at CUNY-TV to born-digital video at the New Museum. Ben and Farris provided yet another perspective in their presentation on the Whitney’s Media Preservation Initiative, in which they talked about the RFP process and the Whitney’s collaboration with Small Data Industries.
Day 3: Small Data Industries
Rachel: On the final day of the Enrichment Session, we traveled to Industry City in Brooklyn to fuse the new physical and digital spaces we learned about on the trip. We designed the day’s experience to trace Cory Arcangel’s work from his studio —> to conservation lab (Small Data Industries) —> to museum acquisition (Christine and Richard’s demonstration) —> to installation (the Whitney’s Programmed exhibition —> to its ultimate home in digital storage (the theme of the Guggenheim, Whitney MPI and METRO presentations). In Cory’s studio, his assistants gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of his current works-in-progress and his older pieces that continue to inspire and shape the historical trajectory of contemporary media art. They also shared the storage system, custom-built by Small Data Industries, that facilitates geographic redundancy and disaster recovery — with the useful byproduct of real-time, remote collaboration among the studio’s distributed team.
Visiting his studio granted us access to the “making” of the piece before we walked downstairs to the Small Data Industries lab. There, we introduced the other members of our team: our Operations Manager, Erin Barson (NDSR Art 2017-18), and Nick Kaplan (Winterthur/Delaware Program in Art Conservation) who is spending his third-year internship with us. Nick showed us Cory’s pieces that he is working on, from his early video-game work (currently at the Whitney) to ones that are being maintained and services for private collections. He also demonstrated some unique equipment, such as a UV drawer that erases data and the custom archival housing the team is designing for Cory’s works. We wrapped up the day in Camp David by discussing the manifestations and intersections of everything we had learned and seen and the things that we still hope to learn and see during the second-half our residencies.
(Photo Credits: Rachel Ward)
If you are interested, my review of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s “Ways of Curating” multimedia site is now published on the ARLIS/NA website:
“Ways of Curating” is a website that serves as a digital, interactive mirror to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 2014 book of the same title. It was created in partnership with Google Arts & Culture to identify and coalesce a thoughtful selection of his projects from a prolific career curating over 200 art exhibitions. With immersive interaction, whimsical animations, and an artistic, design-focused layout, this site reimagines the often habitual and conformative formats of traditional online portfolios and art catalogs … Read More
If you’d like to see what we’ve been up to at Small Data Industries — my host for my 2018-19 NDSR Art Residency — please reminisce with us in our 2018 in Review. Some highlights include working inside Louise Bourgeois’ archive, a collaboration with The Current Museum, a long-term project with the Whitney Museum of American Art and our in-lab conservation of Cory Arcangel’s legendary video game pieces (one of which is on view right now at the Whitney’s Programmed exhibit):
We had the opportunity to attend iPRES 2018 in Boston last month thanks to the Portico funded Sponsored Registration for Underrepresented Students and First-time Attendees. Throughout the four days at Harvard University and MIT, there was the chance to meet a great group of digital preservation professionals for all over the world and participate in all-day workshops, panels, and discussions.
Check out the conference website for all the details, but here are some of our highlights:
Cristina’s Highlights: Attending in-depth workshops and gathering new insights and connects into her NDSR residency project.
As part of our Portico sponsorship, we were able to take two workshops during the first day of the conference. I decided to take a workshop titled: Digital Curation Workflows Based on Open-Source Software. While this workshop touched on open source tools, what stood out to me was the conversation surrounding the sharing of workflows among institutions. Interestingly, the discussion around sharing may have taken the most time out of our breakout groups. Mainly, participants cited common insecurities with sharing their work: concerns about it being seen as “correct” by their peers or being embarrassed about current state of collections. Another issue to take into consideration is how to communicate when workflows are aspirational or incomplete. As a new professional, I completely related. However, people citing these insecurities were not all new professionals but more so folks accomplished in their field. Apparently, we are all human.
This discussion was very interesting to me as one of the reasons I chose MICA’s project when applying to NDSR Art was that they emphasized not only wanting to create a new model for the collection, preservation, and, access to visual arts thesis, but also wanting to share this new model. How, why, and with whom documentation is shared needs to be evaluated. Furthermore, how do you tackle concerns from staff that feel they’re giving away their work without receiving credit? I have managed other projects in which I’ve developed workflows that I view as public. I’ve often shared these workflows with colleagues at other institutions when asked, but I’m now realizing that I’ve failed to be proactive in my sharing. Sharing requires intention and requires time. When developing workflows to make students’ art discoverable and accessible at MICA, I need to think about strategies that make our workflows and documentation discoverable and accessible as well.
Also, Molly learned a few phrases in Spanish!
Molly’s Highlights: Meeting professionals working on similar projects at different institutions and seeing Cristina’s lightning talk.
One of the reasons I wanted to attend iPRES was the chance to connect with a wide-variety of people from different types of institutions, but all working on or around digital preservation. It’s a unique conference that brings together a diverse, relatively small, but focused group. My NDSR project is centered on preserving interactive apps, web content, and other in-gallery media; all formats in the relatively nascent stages of having consensus on best practices and standards for archiving. This means that talking to people currently experimenting with these media types tends to be great sources of insight and guidance. The team at Rhizome and Web Recorder are shaping the the next iteration of models for web-archiving, so it was great to attend their half day workshop and walk away with ideas to test out on my institution’s newly retired website(s) following a recent redesign project. I got an impromptu email-archiving tutorial from one of the developers at Preservica during a group discussion, and connected with Smithsonian archivists about sharing policy and workflow examples. I also got to be part of a collaborative edit-a-thon for COPTR (Community Owned digital Preservation Tool Registry) with one of my project mentors at Digital POWRR and folks from the Digital Preservation Coalition.
I also had the good fortune to attend and support Cristina during her lightning talk on Tuesday. During her session, she shared an overview and update on her residency project which is focused on preservation and access to non-traditional art and design theses work. Her talk and topic added a missing piece not represented in the other conference presentations that I think many attendees were grateful to learn about; I know there were a number of audience members eager to follow her project and the outcomes she develops. Here’s a photo of Cristina in action:
I’ve spent the past two months working on my NDSR Art project at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where I’m helping to streamline the organization’s preservation and access infrastructures for digital audiovisual materials.
During this initial phase of my year-long residency, I’ve mostly worked out of the Guggenheim’s offices in the Financial District rather than at the Museum itself. Between the skyscraper views, peaceful reading room, and office Lavazza machine with its unlimited provision of cappuccinos, I’ve truly enjoyed the time I’ve spent here. Most of all, being surrounded by the people who make the museum function on a daily basis has given me a richer understanding of the museum’s inner workings and organizational structure, something that’s proven crucial to the progress of my project thus far.
And while I don’t make it uptown very often to visit the Guggenheim’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, I have been able to walk around the museum on Thursdays when the museum is closed to the public, and I recently caught a glimpse of the upcoming exhibition Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future as it was being installed around the ramps of the Rotunda.
First Steps: Focusing on Newly-Generated Digital Media
The overarching goal of my project is to improve the way digital audiovisual assets – including both born-digital and digitized materials – are stored, described, preserved, and provided access to at the Guggenheim on an institution-wide level.
As I begin working towards that goal, I’ve limited my focus during the first phase of my project to the existing systems, procedures and workflows behind newly-generated media, an umbrella term that encompasses all of the exhibition, performance, and programming-related videos produced by the museum.
There are two main departments responsible for creating this kind of audiovisual content at the Guggenheim: Digital Media and Theater & Production Services.
Theater & Production Services: Event Recordings
The Theater & Production Services is tasked with recording all of the events staged at the Guggenheim’s New Media and Peter B. Lewis Theaters (shown above), which includes live musical and dance performances, lectures and symposia. Intended as straight-forward event recordings, these videos require minimal production and little to no editing. But with around 77 events to document every year, the Theater department keeps a busy schedule, and amasses a large amount of footage in the process.
Digital Media: Outward-Looking Videos
The Digital Media department is responsible for creating the art, programming and exhibition-oriented videos published on the Guggenheim’s website, Youtube channel, and other social media platforms. With most running under 15 minutes, the videos are relatively short, but they nevertheless require a higher scale of production and post-production work than the event recordings generated by the Theater department, sometimes involving multi-camera set-ups and multiple film shoots, and almost always resulting in many hours-worth of high-resolution raw video footage.
So What’s the Problem?
Based on the interviews I’ve conducted with producers, videographers and editors at these departments over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that internal access to newly-generated video content is only really provided to those commissioning departments who specifically request it.
While the Guggenheim does have a digital asset management system that’s technically capable of supporting video storage, its implementation has yet to be thoroughly evaluated. In its absence, storage and descriptive practices have become siloed, and there is no method in place for internal staff to discover the digital video materials held by different departments.
Once a video has been published online or otherwise fulfilled its immediate purpose, it becomes virtually invisible to the rest of the organization. More often than not, it ends up sitting on someone’s hard drive with little to no identifying information attached.
And while in this scenario content creators are clearly left holding the bag, so to speak, with huge amounts of footage they have neither the room to store nor the approval to delete, it’s the museum itself that ultimately has to fund this system. Unlike video production, which has an upfront cost that’s already built into a department’s budget, the exact cost incurred when processing and maintaining digital video storage is currently unknown.
As I continue gathering information on the future storage solution that I will ultimately recommend to the Guggenheim stakeholders at the end of this project, I am also working to quantify the cost involved in producing and storing one hour of digital video. My hope is that this figure can serve both as a reference for content creators as they plan for the production of their video projects, and as a motivator for the higher-ups at the museum to invest in a more robust preservation infrastructure. I plan on buttressing this quantitative data with a set of ‘user stories’ that exemplify how different departments interact with and reuse video materials.
With any luck, I’ll be able to share some of these user stories with you in my next post!
I’m Cristina and I’m the resident at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), located in Bolton Hill, Baltimore. My project here at Decker Library is focused on developing a new model for the acquisition preservation, and access to art and design thesis work at MICA. The library has been collecting born-digital thesis work since 2015 and there is a workflow in place that essentially consists of a student uploading their PDF thesis via our learning management system, back it up to two servers, and ingest to CONTENTdm for access via Digital Decker. The workflow itself is similar to what other libraries do, however, we’re looking to rethink it because this approach is based on the premise that the PDF that the students are submitting is their thesis when it’s actually just part of it. In other words, the art that the students produce as their culminating project is not preserved and what is archived is a textual explanation of it. When students do submit visual media, they do so in CDs. This media is labeled as supplemental.
So, in many ways, this project is about changing attitudes and this includes working closely with the graduate studies office and recent MFA grads (who also happen to work at MICA). For me to make recommendations on how we should collect, preserve and provide access to these materials, I’ll have to figure out what is valuable to students and faculty. For example, do they see the textual component of the thesis project as supplemental? Or do they see it as carrying the same weight as a video installation a student has produced?
I’ve been invited to several graduate studies faculty meetings where I’ll get a better sense of what students are expected to produce, what faculty believes to be a representation of this product, and how these ideas vary by program. Staff at the graduate studies office is very interested in this collaboration and has similar questions so we’re working on a survey together to send prior our meeting with program directors. We’ll need to ask questions about the integration of theses work into the curriculum and the value that they place on the written portion of the theses versus the value that they place on the visual aspect of theses work. I’m also interested to see what other components theses projects include (i.e. presentations, shows, artists books, videos, photographs, or a combination of some of these). So far it’s been very interesting to see the potential impact that this initiative may have on how students and faculty view the theses work and how eager the graduate studies office has been to create a working group for this project. Of course, I’m also looking forward to delving more into students’ work and seeing what kind of technologies they incorporate into their practice.
Greetings from the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the 4 host sites for the 2018-2019 NDSR-Art Residency. Spearheaded by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries (pictured above), the museum is working to create policies, procedures, and workflows for born-digital institutional assets, moving away from the traditional analog-only process. And that’s where my residency work is focused; particularly the time-based, interactive media that encompasses the visitor experience at the museum.
My first two months have been largely spent on information gathering and relationship-building. On the information side, I have spent time researching best practices for born-digital institutional archives, reviewing current archival policies at the museum, identifying which media-types practically fall-under the “visitor experience”, and getting introductory training on the digital repository system (Preservica). On the relationship building side, I have met with more than 20 staff members in a variety of departments to hear about their work, media formats they use, file storage practices, and generate investment in the digital archival process. I also worked to create awareness by presenting to different audiences within the museum – at department and other monthly meetings.
I’ve also been working hard to plan a 2-day site visit for the NDSR resident and program staff at the end of October. The first day will include site visits and training, while the second day will be a public event – ‘Creating Community Through Digital Futures’ – featuring 10+ presenters and a collaborative clinic. I’m looking forward to continue outreach for the event, welcoming the NDSR group to Chicago, and continuing work on my project over the coming months.
My NDSR position at Small Data Industries began in July 2018 (blog post about our lab to follow!) and on my third day, I met with my ARLIS mentor Farris Wahbeh for our initial NDSR/ARLIS mentor meeting. Farris is head of Research Resources at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a dynamic and progressive position that oversees the museum’s archives, reference, periodicals, documentation, records management, and special collections. In other words, he works to unify all of museum’s resources, from printed artworks to digital records.
After our introduction, Farris led me on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the museum, including the archives, library, conservation labs and the newly-built study center (a space where external researchers can physically interact with art in the collection) — all of which boast beautiful views of the city.
The conservation spaces are particularly innovative and inspiring — the labs meld together in an open floor-plan that fluidly and catalytically promotes trans-departmental conversations and collaboration. In other words, I observed oil paintings from the 1920’s alongside contemporary art and technical-mechanical pieces. In terms of the museum itself, Farris expounded upon the Whitney’s exceptional architecture — each side of its exterior mimics the defining features of the neighborhood below. (There is an impressive — and interactive — article about the museum’s architecture here).
Most significantly, upon entering Conservation, it was by fortuitous coincidence that we stumbled upon Richard Bloes, Senior Technician and Reinhard Bek, New Media Conservator fine-tuning a time-based media piece titled Searcher, 1966 by James L. Seawright — a 6-foot metal framework with plastic and electronic parts that senses and reacts to environmental light. We also explored the media conservation lab (the only room that has a door and lacks the floor-to-ceiling windows!). This is where digital art pieces are processed and archived upon acquisition.
I was truly stunned by the beautiful design of the museum and by the holistic, fluid boundaries — both physical and intellectual — between the labs and departments (what Farris’ amalgamate role directly advocates). Following the tour, Farris and I went to Fig and Olive to chat more about my project, my recent move to Brooklyn and my analogous PhD research. I am very appreciative to Farris for graciously offering to mentor me through my year with NDSR Art and for facilitating my relationship with the local ARLIS network. For our next meeting, Small Data very much looks forward to welcoming him to our lab in Industry City, Brooklyn!
Slides from Douglas Hegley’s July 20, 2018 NDSR Art Immersion Week keynote are available: Digital Transformation & Cultural Heritage, a provocation in four parts.
Digital Transformation and Cultural Heritage
Keynote Lecture by Douglas Hegley
Friday, July 20, 2018 // 4pm
Perelman Auditorium, Philadelphia Museum of Art