Matters in Media Art

Bruce Nauman, Raw Material-OK OK OK, 1990; single-channel video projection and two videos on monitors with sound; dimensions variable; Collection SFMOMA, fractional gift of Pamela and Richard Kramlich to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New Art Trust; © Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Matters in Media Art is an ongoing project that aims to develop guidelines for the care and preservation of time-based media works such as video, film, audio, and computer-based installations. The result of an international research collaboration between the New Art Trust, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, SFMOMA, and Tate, the project was created in 2003 by a consortium of curators, conservators, technical managers, and registrars.

Although internationally accepted standards exist for the handling and installation of traditional artworks such as paintings and sculptures, similar standards have yet to be developed for media works. The complex nature of these works and the fact that many of them are only actualized when installed create unique challenges. The participants in Matters in Media Art hope to raise awareness of these issues and to help establish and refine universal methods of caring for media works.

SFMOMA's formal commitment to the care and preservation of time-based media works began in 1996 with the establishment of Team Media, an interdepartmental working group that directs the museum's preservation of media works and addresses the challenges of managing a time-based collection. Each month the group brings together curators, conservators, media technicians, intellectual property managers, and registrars to consider the short, medium, and long-term goals for the maintenance of time-based works. The activity of Team Media ranges from managing highly localized details related to the care of SFMOMA's time-based holdings in all four curatorial departments (such as establishing cataloging standards for the collections management database) to working with our partners in the Matters in Media Art project to develop far-reaching guidelines that serve the legacy of media works.