A b s t r a c t s  |  L i n k s & R e s o u r c e s

Electronic Media Group

33rd Annual AIC Meeting
Hyatt Regency
Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 8-13, 2005

Presentation Abstracts

Sunday, June 12, 2005

EMG 2005 Program Information
AIC Conference Information

Ann Butler, Archivist, New York University
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

The Downtown Collection at the Fales Library at NYU documents all types of contemporary artistic activity that took place in downtown New York, specifically in SoHo, the East Village and the Lower East Side, from 1973 to the present. The collection spans over 4000 linear feet and contains over 65 discrete archives. These archives are inherently hybrid in their composition, reflecting all contemporary formats, materials, and object types. In addition to standard archival descriptive practices for collection-level description, Fales Library staff have incorporated museum registrar practices to support the description and management of contemporary objects and artifacts in the archives. The Downtown Collection raises issues of documentation on two levels: first, through the use of a documentation strategy as the basis for its acquisitions policy, and second, through the use of hybrid methodologies for collection management.

Michael Katchen, Senior Archivist, Franklin Furnace Archive
Franklin Furnace Archive

Founded in 1975, Franklin Furnace originally exhibited and collected artists' books, but inevitably branched out into installation and performance art. In 1997, it made the unprecedented decision to become a virtual organization. It has designed databases that document performance art, installation art, and avant garde exhibitions from 1976 to the present, including recent net.art pieces. The demonstration will emphasize its recent pilot project integrating descriptive vocabulary terms throughout the online records.

Francis Hwang, Director of Technology, Rhizome.org

Rhizome.org is the premier online resource for the discussion, dissemination, and preservation of net.art. Rhizome's artist-driven ArtBase has been archiving online artworks since 2000 - it currently contains more than 1000 works. This archive raises issues about maintaining a consistent controlled vocabulary; synthesizing indexing practices both from traditional archival best practices and the ad-hoc self-organizing principles of the Web; and the importance of documentation when preserving works whose integrity is exceptionally vulnerable to the passage of time. Rhizome is now affiliated with the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tim Vitale, Owner, Preservation Associates
Preservation of Video in the Conservation Laboratory: 10-bit capture; using 0-108 NTSC IRE full scale; in 4:4:4 YUV or RGB color

Preservation of video has generally involved developing a relationship with a service bureau, sending the tape for remastering and getting the results back. Beyond stipulating output format(s), there is little control over the final result. In addition, the owner loses physical control of the artifact. If a conservator was involved in the process, the informed aesthetic judgments conservators bring to the treatment of paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures can be brought to the preservation of video.

In the world of film production, NLE (digital video) is often used for editing. The film must be digitally captured from the original camera negative. If the director or editor is present, the process is called "supervised" capture. Unattended capture is where the technician makes all the aesthetic decisions, without input from the artist or their surrogate. Video preservation is currently performed in the "unattended capture" mode.

Now that HD video (high definition) is common, standard definition (SD) video capture is well beyond all historic video formats. Capturing any historic video within the huge "601" bandwidth envelope can be done using off-the-shelf equipment. This means that video preservation can be done routinely using $8-10K of equipment in the Conservation Laboratory. The conservator can either perform, or supervise, the process; curators or artists can be easily included.

Only 86% of the possible raw video signal is considered "legal" for broadcast. Most service bureaus consider it a standard service to bring video into the broadcast legal range (7.5 to 100 IRE). Using the ITU-R.BT601 standard (aka D1, CCIR 601 or "601"), the full NTSC output: 0.74 to 108.4 IRE can be captured instead. Specific capture boards that range from $2-5K, fit easily into computers such as a Mac G5-DP2.0GHz ($3-4K) or Xeon DP1.8GHz ($3-4K); 2-4 GB of SDRAM needed. The boards can be configured to capture the full video signal in 10-bits (1024 steps) as opposed to the normal 8-bits (256 steps). These extra steps mean that there is enough digital precision to capture the signal fully, with room for adjustments without introducing empty steps. If the signal remains in the common YUV (YCrCb) video color space (compressed even in its native state), it is captured at 4:4:4 YCrCb, rather than the more compressed 4:2:2 color space used in the DigiBata digital format. If the video quality is high enough, YUV color can be converted to the completely uncompressed RGB color space. Digital video is written to hard drive(s) real time. It is recommended that the video file be archived to digital data tape, such as SDLT and LTO, both with large installed user bases. A 160 GB SDLT tape ($40) will hold one hour of "601" video.

Sylvia Grace Borda, Associate Researcher and Lecturer, University of British Columbia
A New Media Approach to Conservation and Exhibition

A recent collaboration involving conservators, textile designers, and educators developed a new media project which addressed the science of conservation and the development of an interactive browser for the display and interpretation of textile arts.

The project was a cross-disciplinary approach to textile conservation and accessibility, and led to the creation of a medium for communicating and contextualizing material works of art.

For this presentation I will discuss the conservation models we implemented and demonstrate the resulting demonstrate graphic user interface/program that presents a complemetary model to new media approaches to conservation and exhibition, particularly for textile based collections.

Beginnings of a concept *.

The project began with a concept of what textiles mean within a cultural context. First, textiles are a part of our cultural record. They provide visual evidence of societal & cultural trends. Like archaeological objects trapped in strata these material-based objects are also datable and readable in a similar way to the archaeological record.

By examining textile garments one can infer the societal preference of a group to certain fabrics, comprehend how various raw materials were employed to form a garment, and acknowledge the cultural resources and techniques used to create and craft a garment with concurrent technologies of the day.

The more interest an artifact generates, sadly, the more prone it is to the effects of handling and to natural and stress related deterioration.

Museum conservators are only too aware of the range of damage which can occur from viewing, handling and/or examining textiles.

The general result is careful and precise conservation of the materials, utilizing micro, technical and chemical treatments. The drawback to most conservation work is the lack of public understanding of the techniques used in the process. More crucially, treated textiles are rarely on display due to the nature of their frailty and they simply remain in storage, their artistic, cultural and material contexts thus lost to a wider public. This is especially an issue for textile artists who see their work as dynamic and 'living' creations.

The American Institute of Conservation (AIC) Code of Ethics (# 24. Documentation and # 25. Documentation of Examination) already sets the stage for computer delivery or dissemination of conservation information to be plausible.

To cite from the Code of Ethics and Practice:

Code 24: The conservation professional has an obligation to produce and maintain accurate, complete, and permanent records of examination, sampling, scientific investigation, and treatment. When appropriate, the records should be both written and pictorial. The kind and extent of documentation may vary according to the circumstances, the nature of the object, or whether an individual object or a collection is to be documented.

These codes permit a museum to hold a wealth of visual assets that have not necessarily been used to date. Hence, developing an interface to display conservation records and museum cataloguing data enables two sources of information to be combined in a complementary way and allows the creation of an interdisciplinary and comparative body of information for various users to access in relation to the physical object itself.

The incorporation of new media applications to deliver these functions provides the added value and a means of spatial exploration and investigation not otherwise possible in many 'real' environments.

Consequently, the scene was set for the development of a concept and prototype which intended to bridge the divide in 'perceptions' and approach for the conservator, textile artist, and public.

Nancy Ash, Senior Conservator of Works of Art on Paper, The Philadelphia Museum of Art
Thomas F. Murphy, President & Chief Technology Officer, Inventive Software Solutions

A Stand Alone Database for Conservation Record Keeping: The Conservation Tracker System

The Conservation Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has worked toward the development of a stand alone database for conservation record keeping for many years. The goal was to create a comprehensive system that was intuitive and flexible, incorporated word processing features, and allowed for easy image entry and retrieval. Efforts focused on creating a user friendly format for entering information and on generating reports with the appearance of text documents typically produced during examination and treatment. It was essential that the database not introduce extra work for the conservators – but instead lessen their workload and give improved access to information amassed over the years. It also was clear that electronic data could not replace the visual record or paper trail of reports in hard copy. The database needed to be able to interface with any museum management system used by the Museum. Security was a basic concern especially if the database were linked to a larger museum system with access planned for users outside of conservation.

The database that we have developed, The Conservation Tracker System, provides three levels of privilege: full access, view only or no access. Features include eight separate screens: examination, treatment, loan and technical reports; a photography log and laboratory in/out log; and conservation history and technical request screens. Digital photographs are stored in folders by accession number on a dedicated server, and can be viewed from within the system. A simple click can open the image file in Adobe Photoshop to allow manipulation.

To create a new record, the conservator enters an accession number. The artist’s name, title and date then are imported from The Museum System, the collection management software used at PMA. Loan exams import additional exhibition specific information (title, venues, starting and ending dates). Microsoft Word is used to access formatting, spell checking, thesaurus, etc. A “Duplicate” function can be used to copy information from an existing record into a new record (as for a series of loan exams). Layouts for printed reports are created using Crystal Reports software, and incorporate thumbnail images. Flexible searching features include a simple search by accession number, advanced searches, and browsing for all reports with a given accession number. Pre-existing reports can be imported to the system and found with searches by accession number.

Screens with functions other than report writing (aka Work Flow Processing) include the Photography Log, which allows conservators to enter and submit requests for photographs, maintain a log of photographs taken, and print labels. The In/Out Log is designed to track object location and includes pick lists to indicate why an object is in the lab and any treatment or “actions” to be taken. The Conservation History screen contains fields for recording additional information about an object: a list of past conservation reports, survey documentation, and any special handling requirements. Notes fields can be designated for specialized use. A Technical Request screen gives basic sample information for analytical requests, while the Technical Report screen summarizes analytical findings resulting from the request.

In developing this particular database, general consensus among PMA conservators was required to establish the basic design and function of the record keeping system. In other institutions different circumstances and responsibilities may lead to other needs. The system presented here is certain to need modification with use, as practice reveals more efficient and effective ways to enter, track and retrieve various types of conservation related information.