Key questions

  • What information do we need to have in place to establish a baseline record and for future record-keeping?
  • What is needed to prepare for the future life of the work as part of our Collection?
  • How do I prepare for interviewing the artist about the installation and conservation of the work?
  • The goal of the post-acquisition phase is to prepare the artwork for long-term preservation and future installation. This includes organising information about the work in digital and hard-copy format.

About the post-acquisition phase

Process diagram highlighting the stages you should go through after acquiring a work of time-based media art

The work is catalogued and documented during this phase, and images are created for public release and for internal use. The artist may be interviewed after acquiring the work to answer remaining questions about future conservation and display. Technical and conceptual knowledge about the work is used to create a long-term conservation plan.

The media, display equipment, and sculptural components are packed and stored in archival housing in favourable environments for long-term preservation.

Notify artist

  • All parties must be notified after completing the acquisition process, including the artist and vendor (or donor)

Produce images

  • Produce/acquire images for public release and internal reference

Catalogue and inventory artwork

Time-based media works require more complex cataloguing than traditional works of art. Some collecting institutions create separate databases for the additional metadata associated with these works. Decisions about what information to catalogue and how to catalogue it must be made carefully, following discussion among registration, curatorial, collections management, and conservation staff, and information systems staff.

  • Useful website for moving image archive cataloguing: IMAP Cataloguing Project
  • Assign accession number/establish basic record in collections database

Catalogue artwork

Enter detailed information about the artwork gathered during the acquisition process into collections database, minimally including:

  • Artist, title, creation date, display dimensions
  • Media format, duration
  • Display equipment, sculptural components
  • Provenance, exhibition history
  • Accession/collection number
  • Valuation, vendor cost
  • Credit line

Additional information collected in the object file may be uploaded into the database or simply tracked and kept as hard copy.

Inventory and label artwork components

Organise collected information

Create object files, or binder, from the acquisition process

These files will grow as the work is exhibited, loaned, and conserved. Most institutions create separate files for different purposes such as acquisition, curatorial, conservation and registration. Most of this information will be stored electronically as well, in collections databases, text documents, and digital images.

Document artwork

Review documentation from artist/vendor/donor

  • Is it sufficient for long-term care and future installation?

Document installed artwork

Documenting time-based media art includes recording the work in its existing state as it enters the collection:

  • Photograph the installation and its individual components
  • Videotape the initial installation
  • Archive installation plans and specifications for display

Conduct artist interviews

  • The artist interviews may actually include communications with the artist, technicians, owners, gallery staff and others familiar with the artwork. The goal of these interviews is to gather information about technical history, exhibition requirements, artist intent, and technological obsolescence.
  • (Guidelines for artist interviews may be found on the INCCA website)
  • Create archival transcripts of the interviews. If they can be shared and may benefit colleagues, consider joining INCCA and entering abstracts of the interviews on the INCCA Artists Archives Database

Develop conservation plan

The conservation plan anticipates:

  • Installation equipment: maintenance requirements and future equipment replacement
  • Media migration cycle
  • Storage specifications
  • Future conservation strategies and costs

Additional information about conserving media works may be found at the following websites:

Prepare for future display

  • Make media exhibition copies as needed
  • Project costs for future exhibition

Pack and store artwork