The planning process for a collection of media art installations should begin with an understanding that installation conditions and practices vary. It is important to fully research and consider the steps involved in collecting a variable art form that may include sculptural components, hardware and video or digital media. Planning for the acquisition of a media-based installation begins with preparing a budget that provides an adequate infrastructure for display, maintenance, and storage. One should determine the technical specifications and requirements of the work and the cost of appropriate playback and display equipment. Throughout the planning process, it is of utmost importance to engage in a conversation with the artist or the artist's representative to understand the works in your care.
One must also consider the future maintenance and stewardship of the installation, including documentation, the migration of media components and stockpiling of equipment. Preservation standards should be researched and a plan developed at the time of acquisition.
The following is a general outline of basic practical considerations and recommendations for planning the acquisition of media art installations. For guidelines about the process for developing a preservation strategy for such works, see the Preservation section of this Guide.
Create a Budget
Inform yourself about the costs related to collecting media installations. Expenses may include the installation purchase, shipping, installation, equipment, technical support, maintenance and preservation. Visit the Budget section of this Resource Guide for more details.
Contact Artist or Artist's Representative
Identify the source (artist or gallery) from which the work will be acquired. After reviewing Basic Questions, make initial contact with the representative to determine if the work is available and what the acquisition terms are.
Acquire the Work
Be sure to review all rights and restrictions associated with the acquisition. Once received, view the installation elements to ensure that there are no defects. At this time one should also check other components of the installation. Create a condition report, including digital images, of all the items received. Keep media in a safe and suitable storage area (see Preservation for detailed recommendations regarding storage environments), and have at least one exhibition copy of each piece of media provided.
The media associated with multi-channel video works should be acquired on an archival format such as Beta SP or Digital Beta. An exhibition copy on a suitable exhibition format such as DVD may also be requested as part of an acquisition.
The other components of the installation may fall under archival guidelines for objects, sculptures and other media. Installations often incorporate displays, monitors, projectors or other electronic devices within the object itself; these can pose future problems when technologies migrate and equipment become obsolete. It is important to inquire about what role the media components play in the form of the work, and in instances where, for example, a certain type of monitor is integral to the piece, it is important to discuss future maintenance and preservation strategies. Please refer to the Preservation section of this Resource Guide for more information on this topic.
Equipment poses one of the biggest challenges for the collection of media-based work as issues of cost and technical obsolescence can be intimidating.
In addition to making sure you have all necessary equipment for the realization of the work and noting the make and model of all equipment, make sure you understand why this equipment is used—is it because it was available, cheapest, or is it because it has a specific sculptural element? It is important to ask questions about the function of the equipment so that you can make choices about future installations.
Plan for expendables. For example, video projectors require periodic replacement of lamps or bulbs. Lamps generally last several thousand hours, and last longest when the projector is properly operated and maintained. Be sure to account for this and other maintenance when planning for your collection.
Review Exhibition Requirements & Guidelines
If you plan to publicly exhibit the work, research the exhibition requirements, usually noted in the sale contract. Are there restrictions regarding installing the work in a certain size space? Are there any guidelines about sound, or the amount of light in the exhibition environment?
Visit Basic Questions relating to the exhibition of media installation for a comprehensive list of issues to consider.
Anticipating preservation needs relating to the media works in your collection is an important part of the acquisition process. The Preservation section of this Guide identifies recommended steps in order to ensure the longevity of media installations including documentation, inspection, conservation, preservation, and quality control.