Building Broader Networks

Conservators for contemporary art are connected worldwide through INCCA (International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art) but there are only a few conservators specialising in this relatively new area of time-based media conservation within fine art museums. In contrast, the library and archive community has a far larger and more developed professional network of librarians and archivists, image scientists, programmers and photographers who are engaged in the challenges of slide preservation and digitisation. Although there may be a need to distinguish between the difference in approach when digitising archival material and artists’ slides, there is much that time-based media conservation can draw upon. Technical expertise is also available through the Society of Image Sciences and Technology (IS&T) which encompasses all aspects of imaging science and functions as a consultancy to mediate between the trained practitioner rich in bench skills and the latest research in the field of electronic imaging, colour science and image preservation and its subsequent product development.

There is also a greater need for museums to form partnerships so that they become visible as potential clients for the industry. To this end, it would be highly desirable to gauge the number of slide-based artworks that are currently held by private or public collections so that services related to their preservation and digitisation could be shared.

As I embarked on this research, I thought that Tate would need to invest in specialist equipment and software to undertake the digitisation of its collection in-house. However it is clear given the cost of purchasing this equipment and specialist skill needed in its maintenance and operation that it makes much more sense to work closely with a company which can offer this expertise.