Great to hear about the policies and issues you're dealing with.
To relate to some of what you mention:
It is very true that we have come already a long way and that we tend to
overlook what we have, I'm referring to the development of online video
platforms and possibilities of cheaper camera's etc. I agree that video
is still a very valuable medium to document sites, especially now with
the easy to use and cheap option of desktop recording. Recently I made
some video experiments with the work by Martine Neddam (neddam.org),
saved them as quick time and burnt them on dvd. Although you loose a lot
of quality through all the various conversions the result still is very
interesting and shows a good rendition of the feel and look of an online
work. (for those interested i could send the dvd, would be great to hear
With regard to government policies and access issues.. the Dutch law has
some interesting laws regarding archaeology. At the moment anyone who
wants to build a house on a piece of land first needs to make sure the
land is carefully analysed by archaeologists to see if there are any old
remains. If they find something the site is declared historically
important and it needs to be fully researched. This whole endeavour is
to be paid by the owner or project developer. Although all of this is
very debatable, even by archaeologists themselves, more interesting is
the fact that the pieces which are found (small coins or broken cups)
end up somewhere on a pile and nothing really gets done with themů
> Apologise for the long winded response, but I hope that, for those
> interested in the subject of documentation and in response to Annet's
> direct questions, it is a useful summery.
> Although invited, I was not able to make it to the conference, so I am
> happy to provide some detailed post-scripts.
> Annet said: "It is good to hear what policies institutes like the Tate
> are following."
> Archiving born digital content is a relatively new thing and it is
> something the institution is grappling with. In particular at the
> moment, the archive department. Policies are still in development.
> Annet said: "With regard to the works you name as examples, were these
> bought by the Tate and taken into the collection? I presume by giving a
> commission they would be?"
> Commissioning to collect is not something Tate commonly undertakes. This
> is true of the Turbine Hall Unilever series and other commissions as
> well as the net art. In individual cases it may be that a commissioned
> work is acquired. But this would usually be undertaken after the fact
> and involve a separate contractual agreement. There is no net art
> currently in Tate's collection or archive. The works are available via a
> license to display (on the Tate website).
> Annet said: "As I understand there is always a difference in status and
> importance between the documentation archive and the collection
> Tate's conservators undertake a lot of documentation in the process of
> accessioning a work into the collection. This kind of documentation can
> be different to the type of material one would find in the
> Where documentation in a collection context is for the purpose of
> supporting preservation practices and aimed at a specialist conservation
> audience, documentation held in the archive/library may often be more
> directly public facing or be useful to a broader range of researchers.
> The relationship between an artwork and its documentation and therefore
> the relationship between archive and collection becomes blurry with
> works that are ephemeral. Recent acquisitions of performance works
> emphasise this relationship in interesting ways. Again it is a
> relatively new thing to be dealing with and largely handled on a case by
> case basis.
> From Annet's original summery: "Instead of saving the original code it
> could be better to make a diagram that represents all the possible
> states and scenarios of the work."
> "'jack the wrapper': put the software in a box and describe / document
> the whole thing so that someone else can clone it."
> The interactive installation work, "Subtitled" by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
> was recently accessioned into Tate's collection. Although my knowledge
> of the process undertaken by our conservatives is not comprehensive, I
> understand that in the process of documenting the software components
> (which in the case of Rafael's work is open source) all of the code was
> translated into natural language. Such that the function of the code was
> able to be read, even if the programming language became redundant in
> In context of a small research network, that I am currently leading on
> at Tate, which aims to discuss some of the practical challenges that new
> media art presents to the museum sector, we had a couple of artists talk
> through the notion of 'form' in relation to their work. David Rokeby was
> describing his experience of the recent accessioning of his work, "The
> Giver of Names" into the Agnes Etherington Art Centre collection, which
> is attached to Queens University in Ontario, Canada. He went into a
> great amount of detail about the way he had broken the code into
> different sections. Two that could be meddled with - how things were
> displayed, what type of font to use, basic functions etc.. And one
> section that was tightly bound. This third section was felt, by the
> artist, to have aesthetic and political dimensions that could not and
> should not be re-interpreted by a programmer. As an artist-programmer he
> felt his decision making process, in the practice of coding, was
> motivated differently to someone who would look at it from a purely
> technical point of view. Overall, however he emphasised a set of
> documentation he provided about what the audience should be
> experiencing. He also chooses to work with open source code.
> Some video documentation of these discussions will be available in the
> near future. I will post the links, for those who are interested, when
> they are up.
> Annet said: "But if not [collected], or if so, would that have made a
> difference with regard to their documentation/preservation?" [referring
> to net art commissioned in 2000 - 2002]
> In terms of what may have made a difference to how the early net art was
> documented, we need to consider the following...
> I really don't think many people were thinking about documentation and
> access to digital archives very much, 9 years ago.
> When Honor Harger set up the webcasting programme at Tate in 2000, it
> was really pioneering. So it is difficult to discuss the notion of
> digital archiving policies at this time in the same way that we discuss
> them now. In terms of digital video formats, there was an emphasis in
> this era on live streaming. Honor had the foresight at the time to
> archive as well as broadcast the material. Masters are on miniDV tape.
> After a number of years, a significant and valuable archive began to
> emerge out of this ongoing activity.
> Around the time I came in to the institution in 2003 the archive was
> only just starting to become more significant than the live broadcast.
> It was, at the time, a real shift in thinking about the programme.
> Broadband roll out in the UK was only just starting to become a reality
> and so people's ability and desire to watch long play video files online
> was only just beginning to expand.
> Now of course there is YouTube, dozens of institutional archives,
> broadcasters hosting online tv channels etc... It is very easy to forget
> that this was not at all the case not so long ago.
> Of course video is not the only medium through which you may document a
> work of art. But I still think this is a valuable point, in thinking
> about what differences there were then, compared to now. At the time
> that Graham Harwood and Susan Collins were commissioned, Mini DV was
> only just emerging as an affordable medium, digital still cameras were
> brand new, and many people were still accessing the internet via dialup
> These days, as Myron alluded to, the difficulties to be addressed often
> involve meta data standards, data base system development, archival
> format transcoding, the provision of server space and effective search
> functionality. Which for institutions, brings about a crisis in terms of
> the different kinds of expertise and resources needed to manage it in an
> ongoing way.
> From Annet's original summery: "Standardise: with the same indexing
> standards access will become easier"
> Implementing technical standards which allow people to search across
> multiple archives has been an aim in the context of EU funding for some
> time. However across a breadth of content, taxonomies can become
> unwieldy. Semantic standards are difficult to define when content is
> often very particular or unique to a context.
> Intelligent data base systems emphasise the relationships between
> content, such that a simple search can be more fruitful and users with a
> limited vocabulary are able to dig deeper via the lateral connections
> presented to them. However meaningful relationships become difficult to
> evolve, across multiple archives.
> Still I believe these concepts to be worthy pursuits.
> I instigated a research project between Tate and Goldsmiths University
> Computer Science department some years ago. This research is currently
> looking at the development of social tagging systems such that users are
> able to add tags to the database and the archive can in effect learn
> from its use / and its users.
> Social tagging systems are not uncommon, but the research aims to enable
> tagging in real-time, across a timeline, rather than tagging the entire
> video object. This, we believe, will be particularly useful when
> searching long play content, which in the case of the webcasting
> archive, can be up to and over an hour in duration. The software is
> still in an early prototype stage.
> Effective tagging is best done by someone with knowledge of the subject
> needing description. When the content of an archive is diverse, this can
> be difficult, especially because those tasked with the day to day
> maintenance of archives often come from a technical background and not a
> subject-specific background. Devolving the ability to tag content to a
> public (many of whom have a large amount of knowledge of the subject
> area) is a useful management tool, which can help to make this kind of
> maintenance task more feasible. At the same time it can have the effect
> of de-centralising authority. Although there are still questions to be
> answered around motivation, misuse scenarios etc...
> The growth in the amount of digital content produced has been
> expediential over the last decade. And the interest in digitising
> previously analogue material for the purpose of access is just as high
> as the need to preserve material that is born digital.
> Although governments (in the UK at least) are now emphasising access
> through the use of digital technology I think there is limited address
> to the important issue of sustainability at that level of policy. Even
> if one is able to win capital in order to facilitate the development of
> suitable systems and undertake digitization. It is very difficult to
> obtain support for the ongoing hosting expenses as well as the
> additional staff required to maintain and manage such systems at any
> sizable scale.