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CFP – Is This Permanence: Preservation of Born-Digital Artists’ Archives (Proposals due

Abstract from the Yale Center for British Art.

Will the art of the digital age last even one lifetime? If cloud computing fails, where will our documentation be stored? As the internet pioneer Vint Cerf recently asserted in conversation with Rhizome’s preservation director, Dragan Espenschied, “Preservation by accident is not a plan,” begging the questions, What is the plan? and Do we have one? If we do not develop solutions now, we risk losing not only born-digital artwork but artists’ archives as well, effectively erasing the work and memory of this era and subsequent generations’ art history.

Today, an artist’s closetful of cardboard boxes is likely stuffed with old laptops and iPhones along with analog ephemera, handwritten letters, snapshots, and postcards. Artists’ archives are increasingly hybrid collections, requiring new and adaptable preservation methods. Even artists working in traditional media like painting and sculpture rely on born-digital methods to help create their art, manage records, and promote their work, while other artists create solely with born-digital materials. What does this mean for artists and their archives—both presently and in the future? Will these integral records that constitute the history of an artist’s practice and oeuvre be available at the end of this decade, let alone to scholars of later generations?

Hosted by the Yale Center for British Art, the National Digital Stewardship Residency for Art Information (NDSR Art) symposium will be held on May 11, 2018. It will explore topics engaging the theme of born-digital preservation and artists’ archives, including the following: artists’ use of born-digital methods within their practice as means of creation as well as documentation; the state of the field for artists and those who steward their collections and archives; what is being done by artists, museums, archivists, and librarians to steward and preserve the born-digital components of artists’ records?; how are born-digital tools changing artists’ studio practice, and what have we already lost?; and how are museum archives handling hybrid and born-digital artists’ archives—where among these bits and bytes is the artist’s hand?

NDSR Art would like to hear about case studies from artists, librarians, and archivists working with born-digital records that underline their challenges, and possible preservation solutions, as well as what tools are being used, adapted, and developed for the digital preservation of artists’ archives.


Please submit a proposal of 300 words maximum for consideration no later than February 15, 2018, to Cate Peebles, NDSR Art, Postgraduate Research Associate:

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