Preserving digital art

May 30 2017

Video: Google

Art historians of the future - this one's really important; there is an alarming lack of awareness about how to best preserve digital art. In the video above, Google's Vint Cerf looks at some of the challenges ahead. It's important that artists working in digital media pay attention to this kind of thing - so art historians should remind them of this at any chance they get. 

In fact, we can stretch this lack of awareness to pretty much anything digital that needs archiving. Until recently, I was a government adviser on archives and public records (sidenote - I resigned because the system for opening up government secrets wasn't, in my view, effective enough) and I was alarmed at how unprepared we are for the challenge of preserving digital records. Prior to digital records, archiving was easy; something written on vellum and most papers last for centuries. Stick it in a safe place; fine. The same goes (in most cases) for oil paintings. But with digital records, and by extension art, it's a whole new ball game. Floppy discs (for example) disintegrate quickly, if you can even find the right kit to read them these days. How many of us now have CD-rom readers any more? How long will it be till USB sticks become redundant? And how often do you find that something written on (say) Word 2000 can't be opened by Windows XP? The net effect is that there are and will be whole decades worth of digital archives that will be unreadable. Let's hope it's not the same for art.

More on all this here.

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