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



This paper concentrates in the first hand on the preservation of video tapes. Also other forms of immaterial variable media art works - or unstable media  - might of course need preservation. When the paper concentrates on art works on video tapes it is in the first hand because THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK has it's point of origin in a video workshop -in the second hand on the evaluation that it just now is urgent to do something with the old video tapes to save the art works created with and on the "traditional", "old-fashioned" video tapes - especially out of experiences with the older U-matic tapes in the Archives of THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK.

The development has been fast. Today you get films on DVD in the supermarkets cheaper than on VHS-tapes - if you at all are able to get the film any longer on tape. You can now buy the first small camcorders recording directly on DVD  to a price that can compete with the "oldfashioned" tape-camcorders and the video tapedecks are on there way to disappear - a DVD-player is cheaper today. All this is just one more reason to try to do something to "rescue" the old video art works - to save the past for the future.

You don't yet know anything about the durability of DVD discs. This media is still not old enough to give as some experience about the durability but the probability is that also works on DVD sometime in the future has to be renovated and preserved in one way or another - perhaps not because they detoriate but because the DVD technicis succeeded by and replaced by yet a new media technic. Sony and Philips should very soon  - be ready with the first videodisc-players based on the Blue-ray laser technology - the successor to DVD .

But - here and now and in the very last moment - you have - in the first turn - to do something about the media art on video tapes.

Also because if you don't do anything now it will be more an more difficult and more and more expensive to restore and preserve the older tapes. The German art magazin ART Das Kunstmagazin No. 4, April 2003, page 119, states - as an example - that Centre Pompidou in Paris should have paid around 45.000 Euros to restore its collection of video tapes by the German artist Jochen Gerz.

Aim of the paper: An introduction

You have to look at this paper as an introduction to the many problems concerning the preservation of immaterial variable and unstable media art in general and the preservation of video art tapes in particular.This introduction is not all comprehensive. There are of course more aspects than covered here. For more information you have to go to the specific sources we refere to in the text and the notes and/or to other sources. One of the most comprehensive and frquently updated source could be the PADI  website.

PADI - The National Library of Australia's Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI) initiative aims to provide mechanisms that will help to ensure that information in digital form is managed with appropriate consideration for preservation and future access. The PADI website - -  is a subject gateway to digital preservation resources.  Its objectives are:.

  1. to facilitate the development of strategies and guidelines for the preservation of access to digital information;
  2. to develop and maintain a web site for information and promotion purposes;
  3. to actively identify and promote relevant activities; and
  4. to provide a forum for cross-sectoral cooperation on activities promoting the preservation of access to digital information.

PADI publishes a Quarterly Digest and has an associated discussion list- padiforum-l - a moderated discussion list for the exchannge of news and ideas about digital preservation issues. You can subscribe to the list and subscribers are eencouraged to post digital preservation news, including announcements of forthcoming events, to padiform-I. a web-accessible archive is available.

Another very good On Line ressource for preservation is CoOL.

CoOL, a project of the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries, is a full text library of conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials. The content of CoOL comes from a variety of sources and all users are invited to consider contributing some material to the project. Of course the CoOL ressource  - like the PADI ressource - covers many aspects of preservation but have a special section for video:


Torben Soeborg


Supplement: Preface in Danish / Forord på dansk [click]