Blog Post

On preserving new media

Of these, only documentation familiar to archivists of traditional media. All other three pose unique challenges and opportunities.

I will stop now, hoping that those that inflamed the discussion at Hastac III jump in. 

One last (foot)note if anyone wants to expand on this... While writing specifically on moving image preservation, Howard Besser noted that there were two likely paradigm shifts when going from old to new media preservation: from 'artwork as a whole' to 'asset management', and from 'artifact' to 'disembodied content'. Interesting point, no?

If you like the topic, you may want to read: 

Besser, Howard. Digital Preservation of Moving Image Material? Available at:

Manovich, Lev.  ?New Media from Borges to HTML? in Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Montfort, Nick. The New Media Reader. MIT Press, 2003. p13-25 Available at:

Montfort, Nick and Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. Acid-free Bits Recommnedations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature Available at:

As well as...

on the project 'Archiving the Avant-Garde: Documenting and Preserving Variable Media Art" check

on the Variable Media Initiative, check



Hi Virginia (?),

I agree that movies, artworks, and the rest of contemporary culture are constantly morphing from one medium to another, and each of these media has its own particular hooks for critics to latch onto. That said, I don't think that a giant digital scriptorium that scholars can navigate is the best way to expose the critical and creative evolution of these works.

In place of a centralized archive, the Forging the Future alliance has proposed a "metaserver" that points to instances of particular works as they transition from one version, medium, or context to the next. Rather than attempt the Herculean task of gathering all updated information about these versions in one place, the Forging metaserver will leverage community projects such as VocabWiki and Wikipedia to combine the contributions of ordinary folks sitting at keyboards together with the labor professional curators and archivists.

We hope that a distributed approach will offer scholars a way to preserve works that accounts for their mutable nature in the digital age.


Most of my concern with digital preservation is not the same as those of librarians and archivists. I am more interested in persistence so that digital work is useful (useful in a scholarly sense


Sorry I missed the "inflamatory" conversation on new media preservation, but FYI many of the same players involved in the Archiving the Avant-Garde and the Variable Media Networks have been working on a new initiative to share tools designed to help in variable media preservation. These include the 3rd-generation Variable Media Questionnaire, which helps artists and conservators choose among the four strategies you describe as well as think through other difficult issues of translation into future media.

This open-source toolkit will be released later this year, but in the meantime you can find more updates on the Forging the Future alliance at


Thanks for the details. This distributed approach using a metaserver sounds really fascinating. Even as I responded to Ana's prompt saying that I am only interested in born-digital media, I knew I was being flip because of course, one cannot really distinguish born-digital from that which is not natively digital since all 'new' media is rooted in 'old' media (I don't think we typically veiw these references as straight translations or versions but no reason we could not approach them as such).

I love the idea of leveraging work of the community to see how genres and particular 'texts' are morphing. It just gets so dicey when it comes to images, still or moving, where the tagging protocols are funky. Will proejcts like the Steve museum tagging system and WikiMedia also be tracked by Forging the Future?




Thanks for your question, Virginia. The Metaserver would not track collections but pointers to the works, creators, and vocabulary they contain.