Launch of Media Conservation Lab

Conservator Joanna Phillips inspects the modified cathode-ray tube that constitutes NamJune Paik’s TV Crown, 1965 (1998–99 version). The Media Conservation Lab, part of the Guggenheim’s Conservation Department, provides thetechnical infrastructure to examine equipment andhistoric andcontemporary media formats. Photo: Jeffrey Warda
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To access, assess, and monitor the image and sound content of the media artworks in the Guggenheim collection, the Conservation Department has put into place a technical infrastructure that provides the appropriate playback and display conditions for their various formats. The newly established Media Conservation Lab lets conservators view and compare video in various analog and digital formats, including U-matic, VHS, Betacam SP, LaserDisc, DVD, DV, Digital Betacam, and digital file formats with compressed or uncompressed encodings. A film-inspection table allows staff to handle, inspect, and prepare 16 mm and 35 mm film prints for exhibition and archiving purposes.

Emilie Magnin, media conservation fellow, inspects and prepares 16 mm film prints for exhibition. Photo: Joanna Phillips
Emilie Magnin, media conservation fellow, inspects and prepares 16 mm film prints for exhibition. Photo: Joanna Phillips
Condition assessment of videotapes: color bars provide an important reference for the color and brightness levels of an artwork. Photo: Jeffrey Warda
Condition assessment of videotapes: color bars provide an important reference for the color and brightness levels of an artwork. Photo: Jeffrey Warda

Planned upgrades of the lab will include enhanced playback and display tools for high-definition video and software-based artworks, as well as a versatile staging area to mock-up and prepare media artworks for examination, documentation, and exhibition.

The Importance of Viewing and Condition-Checking Media

Media artworks’ sound and image content are often their most tangible elements and they are the constituents where change is least acceptable. The artist-provided master establishes a fixed reference against which copies and derivatives must be matched.

Although videotapes, film reels, slides, optical discs, and digital files are considered reproducible mediums, analog and digital reproduction processes can result in undesired generational loss, artifacts, image and audio errors, and file corruption. Therefore, controlling the condition and quality of artist-provided and owner-generated media elements is an essential part of ensuring the successful preservation and display of artworks.

In the section Media Art Documentation, you can download templates for condition reporting.

Conservator Joanna Phillips inspects the modified cathode-ray tube that constitutes Nam June Paik’s TV Crown, 1965 (1998–99 version). The Media Conservation Lab, part of the Guggenheim’s Conservation Department, provides the technical infrastructure to examine equipment and historic and contemporary media formats. Photo: Jeffrey Warda

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