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

 

Preservation Issues: Degradation Problems

Speaking of older tapes e.g. analogue recorded video tapes, you might ask: What are the preservation issues? The answer is that it is a  problem of

 Media degradation:
Because of the high data transfer rates demanded by video recording magnetic tape has been the medium choice for video formats  - at least up to now/recently – but magnetic tape was never designed as a long-term storage medium but primarily designed to be easy to record, easy to replay and easy to copy. And the degradation is not only due to this inherent instability of video tapes but also because magnetic tapes is not a stable material at the most common ambient storage temperature and relative humidity. If the tape is accessed /playbacked   very often and on different quality of playback devices it wear out the tape, but even in storage unused tapes will decay over time.

 Format obsolescence:
Surveys of videotape formats introduced since about 1955-56 list more than 60 different formats. Many of these formats are based on and are upgrading of earlier formats but many was or are also new and different from earlier formats Many of these formats had a very short life time and are now obsolescence.

 Hardware/machinery obsolescence:
Even if the life of your older tapes are still in good conditions and even if their life can be maximized, by good conservation and management practice and by ideal storage conditions this is of no value if it outlives the technology required to reproduce it: you might not be able to play them because you might not be able any more to get hold in the playback machinery needed for the old tape format. The hardware is not produced any more and those old playback devises that still might exist are often poorly maintained and therefor not able to give optimal playback. It is not only difficult to get repair parts but there is also a scarcity of expertise concerning how to maintain, repair and operate “vintage” playback devices