Best Practices

Computer-based art is among the most ephemeral of art forms. Not only are media files subject to rapid obsolescence, but the software, hardware, and operating systems needed to play back these files have short lives as well. Present-day systems can become technology of the past in just a few years, potentially sentencing an important work to a premature death.

Around the world, artists, programmers, archivists, and conservators are working to create strategies for the preservation of this vital art. A number of major initiatives are tackling questions of documentation, authenticity, preserving the artists' intent, and other critical issues. But the preservation of computer-based art is still a young field. Though it draws upon practices and philosophies used by art conservators for decades, digital preservation does not always have clearly defined standards and practices-in part because of the newness of this medium and in part because of the widely divergent works that fall under the heading "computer-based."

Thus the document that follows cannot be considered a "Best Practices" document in the strictest sense of the word. There are no strictures or "musts" here-only basic principles that will help determine the best course of action for each situation. This document is a work in progress-designed to lay out the fundamental questions these works raise, and to gather the most recent research in the field.