Planning Process

Planning is particularly important when collecting computer-based art. While the process is similar to that of single-channel video and media-based installation, the variability and technical requirements of digital works result in specific challenges. Communication and documentation are particularly important. For example, it is important to interview the artist as early as possible. Record keeping is also critical: document what software and hardware the work requires, and why, and develop checklists for use by any technicians or conservators you may employ in the future. One should find out what equipment is provided with the acquisition and what materials are necessary for its proper storage and exhibition. Understanding how the different elements of a computer-based artwork function, and above all, how those elements create meaning, are essential for the collector.

The planning process for collecting computer-based artworks should include planning for their future viability and accessibility. Preservation should be factored in at the time of acquisition. For information on the preservation of computer-based artworks, see the Preservation section of this Guide.

Create a Budget

Inform yourself about the costs related to collecting computer-based works. Expenses may include the purchase fee, shipping, equipment, networking expenses, 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.

Source Material / Acquire Work

Research all elements that comprise the work and clarify what will be included in the acquisition. Ask for detailed guidelines regarding any equipment that must be purchased independently. Obtain masters, installation instructions, and guidelines regarding future migration, including upgrading to new browser and software releases.


Obtain comprehensive installation instructions for the work and parameters for variability. Documentation of previous installations often serves as a useful reference. Obtain or draft clear instructions outlining how to turn the work on and off. These procedures should be reviewed in detail with anyone responsible for the day-to-day monitoring of the installed work.

Preservation Planning

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 recommends steps to ensure the longevity of computer-based works including documentation, inspection, data storage, preservation, and quality control.