MoMA’s collection of complex digital and media artwork, which use electronics, computers, and analog and digital media, represents a challenge for preservation and conservation. Components of digital artwork often have multiple dependencies and varying degrees of complexity, which require detailed and unique records to ensure that these works can be conserved over time as the technical landscape evolves.

MoMA needed a trustworthy environment for the ongoing management of the museum’s digital art collections. AVP was engaged as architects and advisors on the specification and development of the Museum’s Digital Repository for Museum Collections (DRMC), the world’s first preservation repository for digital fine arts collections.

In collaboration with the conservation staff at MoMA, AVP’s consultants developed functional requirements that defined the operations and interfaces of the system.

The DRMC incorporates a storage system to reliably maintain digital files with maximum integrity, a database that houses detailed technical and structural metadata (compiled in a METS-formatted schema) required for the conservation and presentation of digitally-based artworks and their operating platforms, and a workflow management system that facilitates valid ingest, conservation, and access procedures according to ISO 14721. These components integrate with the museum’s existing systems for collections management (The Museum System) and digital asset management (NetXposure).

The DRMC supports the preservation and management of the thousands of files and groups of files comprising the Museum’s digital artworks, including text, audiovisual, and photographic content, and the associated software required to represent and display the artwork in the future. MoMA employs many preservation strategies to ensure that various works can be presented to museum visitors as technologies change. The DRMC enables MoMA to pursue migration, emulation (including virtualization), recompilation, and other emergent approaches according to the unique dependencies of the artwork.

MoMA contracted Artefactual Systems, developers of Archivematica, for the development of the DRMC system. AVP served as an advisor throughout the initial development phase of the DRMC, providing input and feedback on system functionality and design.

At the end of the first phase of the DRMC’s development, AVP performed an assessment of the system against ISO 16363 and the original requirements for the system to define a roadmap for future development of the system and improve the museum’s digital preservation infrastructure. Identified risks and limitations were analyzed and categorized according to their risk level and type.

A report outlining these areas, with recommendations for actions to be taken in response, has led to more thorough documentation practices and an effort to improve internal storage hardware and infrastructure to improve management of offsite backup copies and data integrity.

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NY Public Library
NY Public Library