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     Video Art / Media Art Preservation:  Studies and Suggestions
                     THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK

Cataloguing the immaterial variable media - A documentary strategy

The DATA BANK finds that cataloguing video art works and other forms for immaterial variable media is important not only when you create media archives but also as a help for preservation /conservation / restoration. With older video /media art works it is often difficult to get the relevant information for cataloguing but even with works that are still viewable it is often difficult just to get information about the works unless you just happens to know the artist or a person who knows somebody that knows something about the video art works.

When you look in general at video and media art catalogues, not only on the Internet but also at "old-fashioned" printed catalogues you will find that the information given about the works is not the same from catalogue to catalogue. This is a problem that should be dealt with. We should come to an agreement at least in Europe about what information should be given about each work. - guidelines that would make it possible to get compatible cataloguing - as Alan Depocas, quoting T. S. Eliot: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information" (1) states in the paper Digital Preservation: Recording the Recording. the Documentary Strategy (2) from Ars Electronica 2001 that "The hypothesis at the outset is that improved efforts to preserve new media art works will be insufficient without the support of structured documentation". We can only agree!


IMAP FileMaker Template Data Structure for cataloguing

The information about the video art works at our own catalogue website was not good at all. The DATA BANK has tried to do it better at the web site of our "Archives of Independent Danish Video Art Works", but what you need is a sort of standard formula as a minimum of the kind and amount of information about each work.

The American IMAP / Independent Media Arts Preservation (3) has developed an IMAP FileMaker Template database structure. The template is a standardized tool for making a catalogue database using a common vocabulary within the template. It is created to allow small institutions and individuals with unique electronic media collections and no trained staff to catalogue their archives in a standardized form in order to establish a compatible information system for independent media archives across broad geographic regions and a wide range of organizations/institutions.

The IMAP-Template database adheres to the MARC standards. MARC stands for MAchine Readable Cataloging – a system designed to allow the computerizing cataloguing of archival materials. The Template is divided in the following sections:
    1. Complete Record
    2. Basic Record
    3. Unique Identifiers
    4. Title & Intellectual Description
    5. Physical description
    6. Acquisition, Usage & Restrictions
    7. Intellectual Access
    8. Local Information
    9. MARC Record

You have to buy the template database program from IMAP but you can get an idea of what the template looks like by visiting the IMAP website (3) at the  "Sample Database Entries" pages. The ultimate goal is to create a "union catalog" - a database containing the records/information of as many collections/archives as possible, and in this way making significant mediabased collections/archives available to a broad user base, including artists, arts groups, curators, scholars, educators, and students.The "union catalog" should  - as IMAP describes it at their website - make it possible to search across several archives/collections at once, increasing the efficiency of searching and allowing for information about a particular collection/archives to be disseminated to a large audience. Also, IMAP points out, a "union catalog" will facilitate the public exhibition of previously obscure work, raising awareness of the works and their preservation needs.


The V2 “Capturing Unstable Media”  Project


At least two projects in Europe are at the moment involved with development of models for the description of video / media: the Dutch V2_Organisation's project Capturing Unstable Media (4) and the German 235Media's MKA/MedienKunstArchive project (5).

 The research project Capturing Unstable Media, started March 2003. It is initiated by the V2_Organisation in Rotterdam and supported by the Dutch Mondriaan Foundation and the Canadian Fondation Daniel Langlois pour l’art, science et la technologie, Montréal.

 The project is on the issue of capturing unstable media art and preserving it in a medium-independent way. The project “focuses on preservation of the growing cultural heritage of “digitally born” artifacts of artistic nature”. The V2_ Archives “with documentation of 20 years of media art events and electronic media art … functions as a test bed for this research project”.

 The project is based on two case studies, two electronic art projects developed at the V2_Lab, and the research tasks are divided in the following sections:

1. Inventory of relevant collections and initiatives
2. Capturing and documenting electronic artworks
3. Metadata
4. Interoperability
5. Implementation and
6. Dissemination

 Part of the project will be to research and develop appropriate preservation metadata models for the description of unstable media art from existing standards, indexing- and classification-schemes, terminology and ontologies, in order to create – if possible – an interoperability of metadata or a “translation” model for the metadata systems of the various media archives and an exchange tool to translate each institution’s metadata to an agreed exchange format
.
 The V2_Organisation has already experience in developing an object-relation database for the preservation, presentation and dissemination of their own V2_Archive (6) and has published the paper Archive of Living Actualities in summer 2001as a detailed report on their past, present and future goals and activities around the archive (7). This is a comprehensive and valuable examination of the archive inventory and state of art and implementation. In the section about Future developments they touch on both problems around dissemination of the collection, the functionality of user interface and the importance of comparability and exchange with other collections and archives.

 It is the goal of V2-Organization to translate the findings from the research development  to actual software implementations and the results of the project will be published as a book. You are now able to see more about the project on the Internet (4).


MKA/MedienKunstArchive

IMAP's  “end goal” is also to enable the creation of a union catalogue database containing the records of a number of archives/collections”. This is also the goal of the German 235Media's MKA/MedienKunstArchive Project (5) but they will go one step further by not only creating an online database catalogue with data about the media art works but also making you able to view the media works directly online..

235MEDIA in Cologne alone has a video art archive which now encompasses 3.000 video works from 30 years of video and media art history and they find that archiving and networking of artistic and audio-visual creations will dramatically increase in importance during the coming years, and therefor they want to establish a Media Art Archive which will be able to integrate current and future formats of audio-visual material and at the same time both preserve the cultural heritage of media works and make this cultural heritage accessible to view them directly on the Internet..

To make media art worldwide online available the project is to investigate and implement an online MediaArtArchive to systematically file video art in particular, and other types of media art in general, such as CD-ROMs, websites, documentation, etc., and to make them available to the general public. The project wants to create a new digital catalogue, offering an online preview of selected works which provides for easier selection for the order. In addition, the existing sales and distribution networks are to be consolidated and new forms of distribution to be developed in order to offer media artists a legally secure source of income. All data about the media works will be implemented into accountant management system that is being specifically developed for this purpose, based on a software created by Pixelboxx GmbH (8)


... exchange and collaboration

The projects - and you might find more projects around the same themes.- attacks the problems slightly different and from different starting points and viewpoints also as regards the end results. It is important that feedback and expertise from the various projects should be complementary. You should look for possible areas of exchange and collaboration. Everyone could benefit from - at least at the end - cooperating by using the best from all the project concerning how best to create both a metadata model for description of media art works, an online "union catalogue database" and ways to make the works accessible online.

In the paper Archive of Living Actualities mentioned before (7) the V2_Organisation invites to this when they in the Conclusion (page 29) stress - and I quote in extension - that the publication "... is intended to generate feedback and provide inspiration for possible future collaborations" and they "encourage readers to formulate remarks and questions about the issues addresses here" and they invite "Readers who encounter problems and  research issues in this publication that coincide with their own activities" to get in touch with the V2_Organisation "so that possible areas of collaboration can be outlined".

At the same time the projects mentioned and any "joint forces2 project should also incorporate the Guggenheim Variable Media Questionnaire, mentioned earlier, and the use of the new ISAN/International Standard Audiovisual Number system


An International number for each video / media art work

It would also be a great help in cataloging and in search of any particular video and media work if each work were allocated an international number like with books where you have the ISBN, the International standard Book number system. ISBN has up until now to some extent been used for video and other types of media work at public libraries.

The ISBN system was developed by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. ISO has now created a similar system  as  the ISBN registration for printed matters for audiovisual works equivalent to  This system: ISAN – International Standard Audiovisual Number has now been approved by 100% of the ISO members. It is published as ISO 15706:2002  (9)) and is now ready for use – and should be a part of any data cataloguing system of electronic / unstable media archives.

The ISAN / International Standard Audiovisual Number is a voluntary numbering system for the identification of audiovisual works. It provides a unique, internationally recognized and permanent reference number for each audiovisual work registered in the ISAN system.

It would also be a great help in cataloging and in search of any particular video and media work if each work were allocated an international number like with books where you have the ISBN, the International standard Book number system. ISBN has up until now to some extent been used for video and other types of media work by publishers.

An ISAN consists of 16 hexadecimal digits divided into two segments: a 12-digit root segment followed by a 4-digit segment for the identification of episodes or parts when applicable. It is not a “content descriptor”, but a “dump” number, meaning that it does not include any codes or other significant elements. Its purpose is to identify the work with a unique number, not to provide any type of descriptive information about the work. This is the same as with the ISBN-system for printed matter: The ISAN identifies works, and remains the same for an audiovisual media work regardless of the various formats in which the work is distributed (e.g. any video formats, CD, DVD etc.) or the uses to which it is put.


The ISAN Standard definition of "audiovisual work"

The ISAN Standard defines “audiovisual media work” as follows: “Audiovisual work: Work consisting of a sequence of related images, with or without accompanying sound, which is intended to be made visible as a moving image through the use of devices, regardless of the medium of initial or subsequent fixation.”


What is the ISAN used for?

 An ISAN uniquely distinguishes one audiovisual media work from all other audiovisual works. Other methods of identifying audiovisual works, such as by title, can result in confusion about the specific work being referenced. For example, one title can be very similar to another. Titles also change when a work is distributed beyond its country (or countries) of origin and the title is translated into other languages.

Because each ISAN is a unique number that is permanently assigned to an audiovisual media work, it can identify that work across national boundaries and language barriers. As a unique identifier, the ISAN is useful in a wide range of computerized applications, particularly those that involve databases or the exchange of information about audiovisual media works. Some of its possible applications are:

Because each ISAN will be a unique number that will be permanently as signed to an audiovisual media work, and will identify that work across national boundaries, language barriers and so on,  it should be useful particularly as an identifier when databases and exchange of information is involved. This makes it very interesting if you want to register video art works and create databases with the information. This ISAN Standard could of course be used for any type of immaterial/ unstable / variable media art work. You can get more information on the public website of ISAN International Agency: http://www.isan.org


Where is the ISAN to be attached?

The ISAN is the unique reference number for an audiovisual media work and this should be included as a data element in any systems used to manage and process information about audiovisual works. Collecting societies / Archives, for example, will use the ISAN when they exchange and process information about the use of audiovisual media works.

For audiovisual media works in digital form (e.g. DVD, CD, CD-ROM etc.), the ISAN should be embedded into the appropriate master copies of the work and transferred to any subsequent copies made from those masters. The MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 standards (for the coded representation of audiovisual and multimedia objects) provide a space for the ISAN identifier in the MPEG format.

For audiovisual media works in analogue form (e.g. video, film etc.), the ISAN should be securely affixed to the master and any other archival copies. For new works, that could involve printing the ISAN on the master tape/negative. For works already in existence, that would involve securely linking the work and its ISAN in some form of permanent record, archive or inventory. It could also involve physically recording the ISAN on the container of the master version, whenever possible.

The ISAN should also be included in the documentation and packaging for an audiovisual work.

The ISAN should be seen as an indispensable and valuable supplement to any archival cataloguing system agreed upon – see above about the IMAP-Template  or the V2_Project Capturing Unstable Media and the 235Media's MKA/MedienKunstArchive Project.

 

Many databases but one Internet search engine

IMAP suggests to create a "union catalog" - a database containing the records/information of as many collections/archives as possible, and in this way making significant mediabased collections/archives available to a broad user base.This "union catalog" should  - as IMAP describe it  - make it possible to search across several archives/collections at once, increasing the efficiency of searching and allowing for information about a particular collection/archives to be disseminated to a large audience.

235MEDIA suggests (as far as I understand) to create one MediaKunstArchive, one media art archive data base (in form of a Public Foundation).

The V2_Organisation wants to develop appropriate preservation metadata models for the description of unstable media art in order to create – if possible – an interoperability of metadata or a “translation” model for the metadata systems of the various media archives and an exchange tool to translate each institution’s metadata to an agreed exchange format. In the publication Archive of Living Actualities already mentioned above (7) they  say that they want to include information from external sources in their archive. this could be from the Web   and/or from related archives: "For example, it should be possible to have a search engine search the Web for a given set of keywords, or the name of an artist or an artwork, and to present the result of the search operation in the user interface". "This functionality" they explain, "is achieved via ProxyObjects ... objects that enable the V2_Engine to interact with external resources: for instance, the Google search engine, a relational database at a related archive, etc. (page 25 -and at page 25-26 they explain have this functions).

This is pretty much what THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK has suggested earlier (see VIDEO ART\e-monitor No. 6, June 1, 2001) for the Scandinavian countries because the problem about registration and index of video and film work had been raised here in the early Spring 2001.

THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK did not find it feasible to create one, and only one, common data bank on the Internet, because some of the agencies / organizations in the Scandinavian countries working with distribution and or collecting videos and films already have there own data bank on paper and some also on the Internet, so we suggested that a “merger” of these should be done in a different way (inspired at that time by a papers presented at the congress-part of the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück, April 2001, by Cay Wesnigk from OnLine FILM,  trying to create “Die DeutscheFilmDatenbank” for independent filmmakers not as one big, common data bank but as “Das Internetportal für den deutschen Film” - the important V2_publication Archive of Living Actualities was not yet published!)

This could be the model for creating an index of Scandinavian video art works and other forms of unstable media art works - especially because you keep the already existing databases as such.

How could it be done? THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK suggested - in June 22001 - the following steps:

  1. We should agree upon what information should be given about a video work

  2. We should agree upon using ISAN as soon as it becomes ready for use.

  3. We should agree upon a common structure for the independent databases. At least you should be able to search on both “artist” and “title”. If these independent data banks also should include streaming video clips should, I think, be up to each data bank, depending on both economical and man power resources.

  4. The existing (or coming) independent data banks and their web sites should still be the sole responsibility of the agency/organization/museum, which has created it, and also be maintained by these agencies/organizations/museums.

  5. We should create a common meta search engine, which should be able to search for any information in each of the data bank web sites connected to the search engine. When somebody seeks information about Scandinavian video art you only have to go to one web site, the common meta search engine. This search engine functions a &#x201Cweb gate” or “portal” to the independent data bank web sites.

  6. If you then write the name of an artist or the title of a video the search engine will direct you to any of the independent web sites containing the wanted information. Not only to the web site but directly to the information.

  7. You might consider if the meta search engine also should have a list of artists from all the independent data bank sites to choose from.

  8. In any case anybody should still be able to go directly to each of the independent data bank web sites without having to go through the search engine.

  9. We have to create a common agency to take care of and maintain the meta search engine (it could of course be one of the already existing agencies, organizations and museums).

  10. We have to find economical resources for the meta search engine.

  11. It should be possible for an artists not associated with one of the data banks but with a web site to have this web site connected to the search engine,

An artist could be associated with a data bank even if the artist wanted to be independent of the data bank and the way they usually distribute videos. THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK offers such an opportunity for individual artists to have information published on the catalogue site without any obligation to the Data Bank (NB: in any case the Data Bank has no agreement with any artist about exclusive rights to distribution. Any of the affiliated artists can also themselves distribute their own videos. (10)

Below you will find a sketch visualizing the suggestions

meta-chart.jpg (38705 bytes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These suggestions should of course be modified and/or changed when the research results from especially the V2_Organisation but also the 235Media is available.


Notes:

(1) T. S. Eliot from Choruses from "the rock", 1934

(2) Alain Depocas: Digital Preservation: Recording the Recording. The documentary Strategy, Ars electronica Festival 2001, Linz, Austria (www.aec.at/festival2001/texte/depocas_e.html   )

(3) http://www.imappreserve.org

(4) http://www.v2.nl/Projects/capturing/index.html  

(5)  You can find information about 235Media on www.235media.com . The pilot project   MKA / MedienKunstArchive will later on be available through the Internet.

(6) http://archive.v2.nl

(7) http://lab.v2.nl/home/_docs/v2_archive.pdf

(8) http://www.pixelboxx.de

(9) http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/iso/tc46sc9/isan.htm

(10) THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK submitted   in June 2001 the suggestions above for discussion between the Scandinavian agencies/organizations/museums concerned - but got no response!