by Vivian van Saaze and Gaby Wijers

For ten years now, the preservation of media art has been a recurring problem for museums and all those involved in the conservation of collections. Protocols for the preservation of videotapes and the registration of video works were recently developed, and a great many video works have already been preserved as prescribed.1 In contrast, the research into the preservation of installations in which 'new' media were used is still in its infancy.2

When it comes to acquisition, presentation, registration, documentation and preservation, multimedia installations call for a different approach from more 'traditional' forms of art, such as painting and sculpture. Such aspects as interactivity (the role of the spectator), site-specificity and changeability are raising new questions for conservators and restorers. In that sense, the problems with multimedia installations have much in common with those around the preservation of conceptual art, performances and works of art consisting of natural, perishable materials.

However, the often process-oriented nature of multimedia installations and the transience of the technology used also raise more specific questions of preservation. Such factory-made products as information carriers and playback equipment are, after all, subject to the competitive situation of the market. New technologies succeed each other at a high speed, and the production of older 'formats' and playback equipment is often discontinued.