Legacy Media Art

   Endangered large

Media art in storage or not otherwise displayed but where the artists or technicians are available to support installation.

Digital Species: Media Art

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment in one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a small effort to preserve materials in this group, requiring the application of proven tools and techniques.


Media art in storage.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of documentation to enable maintenance; lack of clarity with respect to intellectual property; complex interdependencies on specific hardware, software or operating systems; lack of capacity in the gallery or workshop; lack of strategic investment; complex external dependencies; loss of institutional memory resulting from staff churn; poor working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; lack of conservation assessment.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; clarity of preservation path and ensuing responsibilities; proven preservation plan; capacity of workshop to support re-installation; capacity of gallery to conserve; capacity of gallery to re-install; retention of institutional memory including archives of correspondence between gallery and artist/workshop; strong and continuing working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; regular conservation assessment.

2023 Review

Media Art was introduced in 2017, though with particular reference to historical media art. The 2019 Jury added and scoped this entry to ensure greater specificity in its recommendation. It is intended to represent works held in galleries but no longer displayed, but where there is a continuing working relationship between the gallery and the artist or workshop and reasonable expectation that support for preservation could still be obtained when required.

The 2020 review found a trend towards greater risk, given that many museums and galleries, which often rely on visitors for income, have been closed for extended periods. Moreover, any form of digital materials that rely on an individual’s knowledge is at particular risk by a pandemic. For similar reasons, the 2021 Jury agreed with the continued trend towards greater risk, noting that digital materials in museums and galleries records are likely to be at greater risk in these circumstances.

The 2023 Council agreed with the Endangered classification with overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend), although noted a decrease in imminence of action as well as the required effort to preserve.

Additional Comments

This entry attempts to capture a point in the lifecycle of media art where preservation risks are increasing but not yet critical. There is a risk that preservation issues will not become apparent until the piece is brought out of storage when considered for loan or exhibition – often on timescales that make it too late to address preservation concerns effectively. Galleries should be aware that the range of data/formats/hardware/software embedded in media art can be wide and vary at different speeds.

Sooner action is needed to prevent the material from becoming Critically Endangered once the artist has died or relationships break down. Where the artist is still around, there is a major reduction in the inevitability of loss and its potential to be a potentially newsworthy subject. The loss of it would be just as impactful and significant though.

Preservation of legacy media artworks is dependent on access to obsolete technology and also the knowledge of how to operate said technology. Documentation around the production process and artist intent can be limited. This is a risk in terms of preserving a truly authentic artwork.

See also:

  • NEW MEDIA MUSEUMS: Creating Framework for Preserving and Collecting Media Arts in V4, initiated by the Olomouc Museum of Art as a joint international platform for sharing experience with building and maintaining collections of new media artworks across different types of institutions. The aim of the project is to find workable methods for heritage institutions to build and maintain collections of media arts, which are necessary for safeguarding this area for the benefit of society. See Central European Art Database (2021) ‘NEW MEDIA MUSEUMS: Creating Framework for Preserving and Collecting Media Arts in V4’. Available at: http://cead.space/Detail/projects/3797 [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • The Collaborative Infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art LIMA project, to prevent the loss of digital artworks and to commonly develop the knowledge to preserve these works in a sustainable way. The project ‘Infrastructure sustainable accessibility digital art’ invests in research, training, knowledge sharing and conservation to prevent the loss of both digital artworks and the knowledge to preserve them. See LIMA (n.d.) ‘Collaborative infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art’. Available at: https://www.li-ma.nl/lima/article/collaborative-infrastructure-sustainable-access-digital-art [accessed 24 October 2023]

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