Monthly Archives: May 2019

UPDATE – Upcoming Webinar: Oral History Strategies and Stewardship

*This webinar has been rescheduled from its original time on Wednesday, June 12th and will now take place on Thursday, June 20th. See registration information below.

NDSR Art Webinar: Oral History Strategies and Stewardship
Thu, June 20, 2019
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
Registration is free and open to all.

A recording of the webinar will also be made available on the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal.

The Academy Oral History Projects (OHP) department produces, collects, preserves, and makes accessible video and audio recordings of filmmaker voices from across decades and from around the world. As part of that mission, OHP is using cutting edge workflows and tools to ensure this growing collection will facilitate scholarly research and fan engagement. In this presentation, OHP Sr. Manager Teague Schneiter and Sr. Archivist Brendan Coates will discuss the possibilities and challenges of: oral history as a documentation method to augment existing archival collections; strategies for oral history-specific digital preservation and ethical stewardship; born digital preservation workflows for geographically-distributed video production teams; and integrated preservation and access workflows as facilitated by the Academy’s DAM/MAM/CMS systems.

Brendan Coates is the Sr. Archivist of the Oral History Projects Department at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After receiving his MSI from the University of Michigan School of Information, he spent four years running the audiovisual preservation program for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Special Research Collections, supervising the digitization of a variety of formats, from “wax” cylinders to beta tapes. He also specializes in workflow and quality control automation using free and open-source software.

Teague Schneiter is the founder and Sr. Manager of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Projects department as well as its recording initiative, the Academy Visual History Program. She has a BA in Film & Digital Media from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Masters in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image from the University of Amsterdam. Teague came to the Academy in 2012 with over 10 years of moving image research, curatorial, and audiovisual collection management experience, working with oral history and other cultural heritage materials in Australia, the Netherlands, and US and Canada, including with human rights video advocacy organization WITNESS and indigenous media organization IsumaTV. Since November 2016, Teague has proudly served as one of the Directors of the Board for the Association of Moving Image Archivists and is active in the Oral History Association. She is also the founder of a best practices group with the craft Guilds and film organizations recording oral histories, called the Moving Image Craft Documentation Alliance (MICD).

Moderator: Jean Moylan, NDSR-Art Resident, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


“When time-based media art in private collections no longer functions, who is responsible for conservation?”

The Small Data Industries lab — Ben Fino-Radin, Erin Barsan, Nick Kaplan and I — recently returned from the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) conference. The work I presented represents the “new” stream of my NDSR Art project, Something Old, Something New. My talk, within the Election Media Group (EMG) section, was entitled Conservators in the Wild: Collaboration with art studios, galleries and collectors. It calls attention to the conservation needs of time-based media art (TBMA) that exists outside the walls of institutions (that is, in “the wild”), in the contemporary art market — much of which is still being negotiated and standardized. In other words, the art world is often referred to as “the Wild West” (a phrase which also came up many times in the session).

Over the past 10 months, I’ve immersed myself in these contemporary art spaces — as a contrast to my background in cultural anthropology, ethnographic objects and Indigenous rock art conservation[1]. Although the art world has “practices, rituals and customs” that are unfamiliar to me, the methods are the same: observation and interviews in the field. These are often the only tools an anthropologist has in exploring new cultures in order to create primary source material. Whereas my previous fieldwork was conducted in literal fields and escarpments — here, I was “on the ground” in the contemporary media art world and my interviews were with emerging media artists, gallery owners, and private collectors. These interconnected spaces are what I will refer to as the “ecosystem of contemporary time-based media art”.

Within this ecosystem, I am focusing on the path of a TBMA piece from artist studio to gallery to private collection and looking for the problems it faces at each stop along its trajectory. My work also examines obstacles in the path’s interstitial spaces and the broader ecosystem that grows over many years in terms of obsolescence in private collections, reiterations in gallery spaces and new editions from the artist. As time passes, the spaces between these move farther apart — galleries close and artists retire — while complexities, particularly to the private collector, grow.

The Journey and Interstitial Spaces of TBMA
 Animation by Rachel Ward

This leads to the question: when time-based media art in private collections no longer functions, who is responsible for conservation — the artist, gallery, installation team or private conservation practice (that is, if a collector is even aware of such services)? Within museums, established protocols and processes are in place — but where should one turn without this system of defined support? Artists often pass their work directly from studio, to gallery to private hands. Yet these important, complex media pieces are stricken with the same inherent dilemmas as those safeguarded within institutions: obsolescence, demands for migration, repair and preservation.

The Path of TBMA Obsolescence
Animation by Rachel Ward

To unravel this theme at AIC, I quoted segments from my interviews with stakeholders that operate in mixed spaces in this “ecosystem” — for instance, when an artist’s work enters the gallery — when the collector reaches back out to them if a piece isn’t working — and instances of reiteration for new shows in galleries or museums. Overall, I attempted to include a broad spectrum of viewpoints to construct a more comprehensive view of this ecosystem, from established and emerging artists, to small and investment collectors, to the most serious, professionally managed private collections.

In my interviews with media artists, I realized concerns often stem from their old pieces in private collections that require repair. In these regards, they expressed the need for outside assistance, as well as creating comprehensive archives, documentation and bespoke storage systems based on their medium (e.g., apps, VR, installations). For the galleries, their needs mainly focused on a simple and easy way for them to safeguard their artists’ work, storage that would be synced with the artists’ studios for new versions and updates, and best methods for documenting and conferring artists’ parameters (for iteration, installation and repair) upon sale. Lastly, in my interviews with private collectors, it was apparent they desired a change in the viewpoint that once they buy a piece, they are the sole party responsible — or at the very least, basic instructions. According to one collection manager, “they never even told us to use a write-blocker!”. Finally, they want trust that if something goes wrong, there will be a defined system of support.

A “Healthy” TBMA Ecosystem
Animation by Rachel Ward

In looking forward to collaboratively develop recommendations, I recognized that many of these issues are professionally addressed and standardized in museums, with on-staff AV teams and conservators. But when these problems arise “in the wild”, new strategies must be conceived, often on the fly (as one gallery director put it), to address these urgent and, what could be very expensive, concerns. It seems that needs which occur outside the walls of institutions could be provided as a service, such as an ongoing monthly support model. For current and future collectors of TBM art, there needs to be assurance there is a system of support that will safeguard their investment. If this comes in the form of a service, such as a monthly fee, it needs to be simple and affordable.

It seems time-based media conservators in private practice could provide this support at every entry point along the TBMA path, directly to artists, galleries and private collections. Here, the most prudent and inexpensive solutions would rest in preventative conservation rather than salvage repair. In doing so, it could preemptively safeguard the legacy of artists — and by protecting works in private spaces, it may make TBMA more collectible, in turn, allowing artists to sustainably continue working in this medium for years to come. Importantly, these defined spaces of need may open up new roles and career opportunities for emerging media conservators, in our collective goal to preserve our global artistic legacy — from small art pieces “in the wild” to priceless artworks in institutions.

[1] Although, I am now renegotiating these established canons of anthropological research to that of digital anthropology, media archaeology, artist archives and time-based media art (TBMA)

A recording of the panel discussion “Safeguarding + Activating Digital Video Information in Cultural Institutions” is now available on the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal:

Safeguarding and Activating Digital Video Information in Cultural Institutions

This event was co-organized by NDSR Art and the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

Registration Open: NDSR Art Capstone

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

We are happy to announce that we have opened registration for the 2018-2019 NDSR Art Capstone event, 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. This event will also present an opportunity for attendees with different backgrounds to participate in discussions surrounding appraisal of digital media for GLAM institutions, development of artists’ archives, and DIY strategies for digital preservation.

Additionally, this one-day symposium will bring together digital archivists, digital curators, librarians, and artists to talk about digital art stewardship. Our guest speakers include Caroline Gil Rodríguez, Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde (ayo), Jazmyn Castro, and Bárbara Calderón. Check out our speakers page to learn more about them.

This event is free and open the public. However, we are offering the option to purchase a prepaid lunch catered by Dooby’s (we do encourage folks to bring lunch or choose the prepaid option as lunch options around the area are limited). More details here.

Want to participate? Propose a lightning talk! 

Please get in touch with Cristina Fontánez at if you have any questions.