Software-based Art: Challenges and Strategies for Museum Collections
Hoffmann, Allison K.
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Art museums are faced with how to implement policies and practices to acquire media-based artworks in the original formats while planning for potential maintenance, repairs and upgrades of technology. As Christine Frohnert and Martha Singer state in their 2010 American Institute of Conservation (AIC) News article, "incorporation of technology into works of art, whether visibly or covertly, serves to anchor a work to its historical specificity and to grant it a more full cultural identity. Therefore it comes as no surprise that artists increasingly use electronic media." This research explores the range of challenges museums face when collecting works which have software and describes the range of emerging strategies for collecting software-based artwork while planning for future exhibitions and preservation. Three research methods were used to collect data; an electronic survey regarding media-based collection, site visits to James Turrell Skyspaces and interviews with experts who work with media-based artwork. Results indicate that museums are interested in collecting software-based works despite concerns in the field regarding the inherent vice of the technology degrading and the lack of museum professionals with computer science expertise. In response to these concerns strategies for collecting software-based artworks are beginning to emerge such as internal museum workgroups, documenting software code and establishing digital repositories. These are strategies that may enhance the museum's ability to exhibit and preserve software-based art. Digital technology has become a pervasive aspect of daily life for most individuals if we do not begin collecting, documenting and preserving this history we will those records of our cultural history.
- Museology