Like any other artworks, video pieces are subject to aging processes that in the long term can damage or even destroy them entirely.
Yet time leaves its mark not only on the media themselves. Their content may also become illegible over the course of time. Technological progress generates ever new file formats and software codecs, which find their way into video artists’ production process. Therefore alongside material-specific risks, we always also need to pay close attention to which technologies are viable in the long term – and which digital formats are dying out.
In order to take account of these considerations, a multi-step long-term archiving strategy was devised for the JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION; it is based on the “three-pillar model”. The aim of the strategy is to condense, on the digital level, the heterogeneous collection into a few established, standard output formats. This noticeably reduces conservatorial work, as only a constrained number of formats require regular examination and safeguarding by means of obsolescence monitoring.
At the same time, redundant back-ups offer additional security in terms of the Collection’s continued existence.
Media Art Depot
That said, the very basis and “treasure chamber” of the Collection is the Media Art Depot. As fluctuating or high temperatures and humidity damage tape and film, ambient conditions were one of the most important aspects during the planning process. Temperatures of around 15°C and 35% relative humidity are considered optimal for storing magnetic tape and were thus adopted. Such conditions are also recommended for other media such as films and slides.
The Media Art Depot, specially conceived and planned for the JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION, has two airlocks: the personnel airlock prevents abrupt changes in environmental conditions when people enter the depot. The second is designed for tapes and media to be newly stored in the depot. It enables them to acclimatize slowly in the airlock before being stored in a special mobile shelving system. The shelving has ball-bearing mountings and makes the best possible use of the space. To eliminate all risk to the stored video tapes, the stove-enameled shelf bottoms were tested for residual magnetization. Moreover, grounding the shelves prevents a buildup of static charge.
Given that dust and air pollutants constitute a serious threat for media art pieces, air is filtered several times both before and after conditioning. In addition, smoke and water detectors and an alarm system round out the comprehensive protection concept for the works.
The complex technical equipment combined with the specially constructed shelving system makes the Media Art Depot unique in Europe.