Digital Preservation and Emulation in the Context of Digital Media Art History

9 December 2021, 5:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Professor Melanie Swalwell, Swinburne University of Technology

Session Moderators

Angela Goddard, Griffith University

Session Speakers

Dr Helen Stuckey, RMIT
Dr Cynde Moya, Swinburne University of Technology
Prof Melanie Swalwell, Swinburne University of Technology

This panel will discuss the impact of digital preservation and improvements in emulation for digital media art historical research. Until recently, the prospects of being able to access recent digital art history in Australia looked bleak. Few collections existed and important archives were held in organisations without the means to adequately conserve or preserve them. Legacy storage media and obsolescence of computing environments were also significant problems. Happily, things are looking up with the transfer of several seminal media arts organisation archives to cultural institutions and a consortium of GLAM Partner Organisations and researchers working on an ARC Linkage Project (“Archiving Australian Media Arts: Towards a method and national collection” LP180100307). At 2018’s AAANZ, we discussed the proposed Linkage Project package of work. This year we can report on progress and demonstrate functioning interactive artworks. These have been imaged from floppy disks and CD-ROMs and are running in a number of different operating systems, in Emulation as a Service (EaaS).

PAPER #1
Archiving Australian Media Arts: Towards a method and a national collection

PRESENTER
Dr Helen Stuckey, RMIT

Australian media artworks from the 1990s are at risk digital artefacts. This ARC Linkage Project aims to develop a best practice preservation method and Standards Document to facilitate the adoption of techniques and knowledge by end users within the wider GLAM sector. The project aims to deliver social and cultural benefits by making collections accessible, building workforce capacity and a community of practice in the specialised field of born digital preservation, thereby reducing the risk of loss of digital cultural heritage. The project is focused around the archives of several community-based organisations which were pioneers of the media arts scene in Australia: dLux Media Arts, Experimenta Media Arts, the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), and Griffith Artworks. Taken together, the archives of ANAT, Experimenta, and dLux constitute an invaluable and extremely rich record. A distributed national collection of media arts archives is crystallising with cultural institutions recently accepting stewardship of these archives. The paper will explain and contextualise the project, a major aim of which is to develop a best practice method for stabilising the artworks from selected case studies.

PAPER #2
Demo: Emulating Australian media artworks

PRESENTER
Dr Cynde Moya, Swinburne University of Technology

A live demonstration of several interactive media artworks from the collection of Griffith University Art Museum, Experimenta’s “Virtualities” (1995) and dLux’s “Matinaze” (1997) exhibitions, running in Emulation-as-a-Service. Each media art piece has its own configured environment, and can be opened and interacted with on demand. These items can then be shared with researchers in a reading room or, with the artist’s permission, over the Web.

PAPER #3
Australian media arts holdings: Surveying the national collection

PRESENTER
Prof Melanie Swalwell, Swinburne University of Technology

Researchers in media arts history face a gap in knowledge because there is "no Trove for galleries". Though it often seems like there isn't much media artwork held within cultural institutions, that is actually not the case. Diverse organisations hold media artworks, but no one knows where to look as there is no union catalogue for galleries in Australia. Discoverability is thus a significant problem. This part of the project aims to address this knowledge gap, collating the holdings of media arts in Australian collections. We are collating information to build a more comprehensive picture of the distributed national media arts collection, including auditing the four media arts collections that are the focus of the project. This paper details an audit of existing media arts collections, from which we have created a searchable online database (de Vries and Swalwell 2020). The dataset will provide the information needed to inform future collecting, allowing identification of duplications, one-offs, and gaps in collections. It contributes to the larger project of securing Australian media arts heritage for future research purposes.

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Biographies

Prof Melanie Swalwell, Swinburne University of Technology

Melanie Swalwell is Professor of Digital Media Heritage in the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies at Swinburne University. Melanie’s research focuses on the creation, use, preservation, and legacy of complex digital artefacts such as videogames and media artworks. She is the Project Leader for this LP.


Dr Helen Stuckey, RMIT

Helen Stuckey is Senior Lecturer in the Games Program at RMIT.


Dr Cynde Moya, Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Cynde Moya directs the Digital Heritage Lab in the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies. The Lab is a collection of functioning vintage computer hardware, software, and facilities to image different kinds of obsolete computer carriers. Dr Moya is active with the Software Preservation Network, and was elected to the 2021 Coordinating Committee. She also works with its affiliate project, Emulation-as-a-Service (EaaS) and Emulation-as-a-Service Infrastructure (EAASI). She is on the collection & curation committee of the Australia Computer Museum Society. Previously, she served as Manager of the Software Preservation Lab at Living Computers: Museum + Labs in Seattle, Washington.


Angela Goddard, Griffith University

Angela Goddard is a curator, writer and Director of the Griffith University Art Museum, and a board member of the Sheila Foundation.