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DIGITALIS est un diagramme méthodologique de la préservation des objets numériques complexes à visée institutionnelle. Il est fait pour aider les conservateurs-restaurateurs non spécialisés à développer une méthodologie pour la préservation de leur collection d'art numérique et média-technique. Il a été réalisé par Morgane Stricot en 2013 dans le cadre de son diplôme de Master à l'ESA Avignon, sous la direction de Lionel Broye et Emmanuel Guez.

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Description : Extrait de Morgane Stricot, "Digital art preservation, Practical answers to theoretical issues", in : C.A Adisson, Livio De Luca, Gabriele Guidi, Sofia Pescarin. Proceedings of 2013 Digital Heritage International Congress (federating 19th Int'l VSMM, 10th Eurographics GCH, & 2nd UNESCO Memory of the World Conferences, UNESCO/IEEE/EG, 2013. Volume 2 (792 p.), 2013, 978-1-4799-3169-9.


Which kind of methodology may practically answers to those theoretical issues of authenticity, historicity and long-term access?

If there is a theoretical approach seems to be based on a simple precept of Perla Innocenti: “keeping the bits alive” [5], there is a lack of methodology for the decision-making process in digital art preservation. In the frame of my master thesis in the Avignon Art School and my fellowship at the University of Maine (Still Water Lab, Variable Media Network) I studied all the international research conducted on digital art and variable media preservation (DOCAM, Rhizome, IMAP, PANIC, POCOS…) and I decided to conduct myself an experimental online methodological diagram3 aimed at helping museums stakeholders. The goal being to do a state of the art of the best practices in a logical path, to gather all these research projects’ results in the same place and potentially create a sharing platform to exchange point of view and practical cases.

This diagram is composed of four interdependent phases: documentation/archives, conservation plan (decision-making) preventive conservation and curative conservation. Each phase is divided in several steps that are needful to do or at least to consider in the preservation process. All the steps are clickable and available in three languages: French, English and German, and contains check-list and links towards websites, online tools, guidelines and documents. The circular shape of this diagram is driven by a need for a non-linear use. This choice results from the on-going process nature of digital art preservation. The methodological aspect allows a systematic approach by decomposing preservation in multiple, interdependent and needful actions following a lifecycle principle.

The DIGITALIS diagram is not descriptive but normative. It gives an overview of the paramount phases contributing to the preservation of a piece of digital art in a museum frame. It describes all the information you have to take into consideration before making any conservation treatment.

The documentation/archives phase aims the conservator-restorer at documenting the score of the artwork before making any paramount change that could endanger its authenticity. This score, called “optimum working conditions” in the diagram, is a set of properties that defined the identity of the artwork such as the implementation, the interface, the functional components by which the inputs are played back and the output are displayed, the reception of the artwork, the practicability (the way the viewer encounters the artwork and by which means), the produced effects, the representation artifact (visual, acoustic, textual) and all the information contributing to the meaning and the experience of the artwork. The information will allow the interpretation and the reinterpretation of the artwork in a new technological context while maintaining the experience of the artwork and keeping it both alive and authentic.

Several tools are available to document or gather this information such as the Variable Media Questionnaire. It is an online tool “designed to help a work's creators and users write guidelines for translating their works into new media once the original medium has expired”4 by documenting the artwork regardless of its technological context5. There are also the MANS (Media Art Notation System) a XML initiative from Richard Rinehart integrating both human-readable and machine-readable score [7], and the installation template from the Matters in Media Art project (Tate) enabling exhibit time-based media installations in proper conditions.

The second phase is composed of four steps focusing on the decision-making process. The first step named “identify equipment significance” is actually the step where stakeholders will decide whether the device has a historical significance. To be as objective as possible, the decision-making has to result from an interdisciplinary effort to decide if the device is a significant witness of our technological past. To figure it out, some criterions can be helpful as commercial popularity, spare parts availability, use of the device, people interest etc. This step is followed by an evaluation and analysis of the risks regarding obsolescence, dysfunction, skill loss, etc. This step leads to an analysis of the existing recognized conservation strategies (emulation, storage/repair, migration, virtualization, portage/cultivation, reinterpretation) in order to exclude the ones not feasible. The remaining curative strategies will be organized in terms of risks and resources requirements. To be successful the curative conservation strategies have to be associated with preventive conservation measures such as regular inspections, redundant data backup, digital curation or technological watch. The whole analysis will give rise to one or several treatment proposals. The last two phases give an explanation of each strategy as well as its advantages and disadvantages to help the decision-making. On the other hand, the check-lists will help for the treatment process.

Basically, this diagram helps the museum stakeholders to gather all the information that defines the parameters of each instantiation of the artwork in order to make a decision which preserves the artwork experience and therefore its authenticity. It also enables the stakeholders to ask themselves the right questions in order to maintain this authenticity despite the inherent variability of the artwork materiality. By being as objective as possible, it helps understanding the potential risks and benefits of each conservation strategies and ultimately choose the one which maintains as much as possible the artwork’s practicability, behaviors, artistic concept and effects at each preservation cycle.


[5] S.Ross, “Approaching digital preservation holistically”. In A.G. Tough, & M.S. Moss (Eds), Record keeping in a hybrid environment: managing the creation, use, preservation and disposal of unpublished information objects in context. Oxford: Chandos Press, 2006, pp.115-153.

[6] P. Innocenti, «Bridging the gap in digital art preservation: Interdisciplinary, reflections on authenticity, longevity and potential collaborations. » In D.Anderson, D.Backer, C.Billeness, J.Delve, M.Dobreva, L.Konstantelos, (eds.) Preservation of Complex Objects: Volume 2: Software Art. Series: The preservation of complex objects. JISC, 2012 pp. 71- 83.

[7] R.Rinehart, « The media art notation system: documenting and preservating digital/media art, » in Leonardo, vol 40, number 2, April 2007, pp. 181-187.