2000 - 2003

Over the last few years, collection managers and conservators have become more and more interested in the issue of the preservation of video art. On the one hand, the videotape, the physical carrier of the work of art, is liable to wear and tear, and the relatively short life span of the signal is already causing a serious threat to the work of the first generation of video artists. On the other hand, the video artist makes use of a ‘reproducible’ medium, with survival of the work of art ensured simply by the possibility of copying the tape.
In order to address these problems, the Project Preservation Video Art, following a study of preservation methods and techniques, was launched in 2000, under the auspices of the Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art (SBMK). Within this project, a methodology for the preservation of video art was developed, implemented and evaluated, eventually resulting in the preservation more than 1700 analog video works aged seven years or over. Moreover, a model acquisition contract and a registration model for the preservation of video art were developed. Documentation, consultation with the artist and the conversion of the analog signal to Digital Betacam have turned out to be the essential criteria for the preservation of video works for the future.

Previous history
In 1992, at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA, the contents of tapes that were threatened with total erosion were transferred to the high-grade Betacam SP system, in the context of the Deltaplan Culture Conservation. However, adequate preservation of an analog system entails repeated conversion to another carrier, every seven to ten years. Moreover, copying leads to loss of quality. In 1998, a pilot project was carried out to allow for further study of the criteria, the methodology and techniques for the preservation of video art. On the basis of the results of this pilot, the video collections of the participating institutes can now be prevented from deterioration by converting the works to Digital Betacam. In this way, further loss of quality is avoided until, in the future, the transfer can take place to (the expected) more durable carriers.

In the early 1990s, the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA had acted as initiator and realizer of the preservation project 1st phase. The pilot project, in the late 1990s, was also carried out at the institute. The Netherlands Media Art Institute housed one of the largest video-art collections in Europe, and had extensive expertise in this area of art at its disposal. Within the ‘Project Preservation Video Art’, the Netherlands Media Art Institute undertook the carrying out of the preservation work. In 2000, the organization of this project was assigned to the Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art (SBMK).

The participants are: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; De Appel, Amsterdam; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Groninger Museum, Groningen; Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Rijswijk/Amsterdam; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA, Amsterdam; Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam (all of these 1st-phase participants); new participants are the Mickery Collectie, Amsterdam, and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Moreover, De Pont Foundation for Contemporary Art, Tilburg, participates in the development of methodology and models. The World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam, was a 1st-phase participant, but has no conservational function and could therefore not take part in this preservation project.

Christiane Berndes, Annette Mullink, Esther Vossen, Poul ter Hofstede, Caspar Martens, Andree van de Kerkhove, Bart Rutten, Tinie Kerseboom, Dorine Mignot, Saar Groeneveld and Jacqueline Rapmund met approximately every three months under chairmanship of Evert Rodrigo to monitor the project. The Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art assigned the coordination of the project to Gaby Wijers (Toxus, Netherlands Media Art Institute). Other museums - those represented in the SBMK and international modern-art museums -, preservation institutes, the Nederlands Audiovisual Archive (NAA), Hilversum, and the Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, were consulted and asked for cooperation. The preservation project was also made possible by once-only financial contributions from the Mondriaan Foundation, the VSB Fund and the ThuisKopie Fund. Moreover, the participating institutes contributed at an hourly rate for each work preserved.