Looking Back/Looking Forward:  A Symposium on Electronic Media Preservation


Friday, May 31, 2002          12:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Saturday, June 1, 2002 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Hosted at Downtown Community TV Center

FRIDAY MAY 31, 2002

12:30 pm                Coffee and Check-in

1:00                      Welcome, Introductions, Goals

1:30 – 3:00           Issues in Physical Preservation

Led by Luke Hones (Artists Television Access), Heather Weaver (Bay Area Video Coalition) and Kacey Koeberer (Bay Area Video Coalition), the session will follow the process of preservation from the arrival of a tape to its remastering: from inspection, to cleaning, to playback, and finally duplication.  While focusing primarily on 1/2” open reel, we will also consider the impact of the issues raised on other video formats and on audio. We’ll look at hardware, including the intermediary devices used to monitor, measure, and “correct” the signals, as well as the documentation of the preservation process. Luke Hone’s manuscript,  “Reel to Real: BAVC’s Remastering Model, a Case Study”, concerning the history and configuration of the Bay Area Video Coalition’s remastering facility, will be available on the Experimental Television Center’s Video History Project web site for study prior to the Symposium. Additional texts on other aspects of remastering are also available on site, and will provide background for our discussion. What is working well? Where are the problems? How can we address issues of inexperience with or lack of understanding of the technology? What further research is required? What is the role of the for-profit sector? How can media arts organizations, conservators, and the larger preservation community contribute?

3:00 – 3:15           Break

3:15 – 4:00           Issues in Physical Preservation  continued

4:00 – 5:00           The Economics of Physical Preservation

The economics of BAVC’s facility will be discussed.  Electronic Arts Intermix, Video Data Bank, V Tape and others will share their experiences with remastering projects.  What does it really cost to operate a remastering facility?  What are possible models for support of a facility? What problems of access and maintenance do the hardware and devices pose and how can we solve them? What does this discussion of economics tell us about where we need to go from here?

 5:30-7:00             Reception at MercerMedia

Join us at an informal gathering hosted by MercerMedia, 135 West 26th Street 12th Floor, immediately following the last session on Friday. MercerMedia offers a range of audio and video post-production services, and in collaboration with the Standby Program provides media streaming solutions for independent producers.


10:00 am                Coffee and Check-in

10:30-11:30           Media Formats Update and Discussion

Mona Jimenez (Materia Media) will briefly summarize the different points of view in the archival and media arts community concerning formats. What are the new media formats - digital tape, optical media – which have become available within the last several years? What do archivists and other professionals recommend for a “preservation format”? What are the pros and cons of various formats? How do these recommendations apply in practice to the independent media community? 

11:30-12:30 pm          Assessing a Collection for Preservation

Sarah Stauderman (Smithsonian Institution) will present a summary of the questions archivists and conservators typically ask when prioritizing a list of works from a collection for possible remastering.  How do cost and complexity of the remastering process impact decisions? In practice, how are works selected for remastering? Are there similar issues when tackling preservation of hardware and tools?

12:30 – 1:45            Lunch  on your own

1:45-3:00             Issues in Capturing Related Histories

Media preservation also encompasses artists’ instruments and tools and paper ephemera, all of which enrich our understanding of the tapes we are trying to save and the history of electronic media art.  We will hear about related efforts to document or preserve devices used for audio and video works. We will look at the initiatives of the Daniel Langlois Foundation, the Art and Science Laboratory directed by Steina and Woody Vasulka and the Electronic Music Foundation, directed by Joel Chadabe.

 3:00 – 3:15           Break

3:15 – 4:30           What’s Next?

What initiatives or projects are needed? How can we clearly define our goals?  What resources are required? How can we raise awareness of the need for preservation of independent works? How can we broaden this conversation and invite others to participate? How can we advance preservation of independent media within the larger context of the history of the electronic arts?  How can we enrich the scope of concerns to include artists’ tools and ephemera?

4:30-5:00             Summary and Conclusions


The symposium is organized by the Experimental Television Center (ETC) in association with Independent Media Arts Preservation (IMAP), Bay Area Video Coalition and the Electronic Media Specialty Group of the AIC (American Institute for the Conservation of Artistic and Historic Works). Looking Back/Looking Forward is hosted by the Downtown Community Television Center and is made possible with public funds from the Electronic Media and Film Program of the NYS Council on the Arts, and assistance from IMAP, MercerMedia and Dave Jones Design. The symposium is organized by Sherry Miller Hocking, Assistant Director of the Experimental Television Center, and independent consultant Mona Jimenez.