Computer-based Arts

No field of preservation is changing more rapidly than the digital realm. Conservators have had decades, even centuries, to learn about treating frescos or marble statues. Yet much digital art is based on technologies that were invented barely ten years ago and that may become obsolete within five. The software needed to retrieve programs becomes obsolete, operating systems are replaced, and storage devices are upgraded with increasing speed. All of these factors conspire to put digital information at great risk.

Conserving a work of computer-based art is more complicated than simply preserving digital files. What must be saved for the future is not merely data, but all the nuances of an artist's vision. And time is of the essence. As Richard Rinehart, director of digital media for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has said, "With digital art, there's no room for things to fall between the cracks. If you don't do something to preserve it within a span of five years, it's not going to survive."