Recently Commissioned or Completed Media Art

  Vulnerable small

Media art currently displayed in a gallery or in the process of being displayed.

Digital Species: Media Art

Trend in 2022:

No changeNo Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No changeNo Change

Previously: Vulnerable

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

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 recently acquired by galleries that utilize specific hardware and software in order to be accessed or exhibited.

‘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; lack of documentation about artist intent.

‘Lower Risk’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; clarity of preservation path and ensuing responsibilities; proven preservation plan; capacity of workshop to support artwork at de-installation; capacity of gallery to conserve after de-installation; capacity of gallery to re-install work.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a separate entry, but it was previously introduced in 2017 under ‘Media Art’ with particular reference to historical media art. It was added for greater specificity for its recommendations, to represent works commissioned in the last five years where there is a reasonable expectation that documentation has been produced or could still be obtained.

While the 2020 Jury found no change in trend, the 2021 Jury discussed how prospects for longterm preservation depend entirely on whether the artwork is collected post-commission and by an organization with the resources to care for it. They agreed that the classification remains Vulnerable but with a trend towards greater risk because the imminence of action is timesensitive, requiring working with the artist to get the documentation from them about their work and what is needed before it is too late. Furthermore, there remains a vulnerability for the smaller museums or others that do not take the preservation of media art as seriously.

The 2023 Council agreed with the Vulnerable classification with overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend), although noted a change in the imminence of action from 3 years to 12 months.

Additional Comments

By the time digital art, time-based media, etc., has entered into the permanent care of a stewarding institution, many of its technologies are already end-of-life, unsupported, or the hardware components have deteriorated. Often the expertise to maintain these many interacting components sits outside the host organization, with a technical supplier to the gallery, and this is in itself vulnerable to business change. Although there are a few exceptions, there is a need for greater capacity within the museum and gallery sector to address the challenges. There have been new initiatives for guidance and examples of institutions taking wider sectoral responsibility for standards, which have helped with the effort to preserve, such as Matters in Media Art information resource and guidance.

Media artworks are often made with a network of knowledge that can be precarious. Documentation around production processes can be minimal, and hence acting quickly with known processes can gather information before the knowledge and people networks start to disperse. This can mean preservation of production environments and associated workflows can be preserved alongside the media.

Some art works specifically leverage the limitations and characteristics of the systems that they incorporate, often in unusual ways. This can be hard to migrate or emulate accurately.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • Resources and outputs from the Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects From and Across The National Collection project. See V&A Research Projects (n.d.) ‘Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • This includes decision model work around acquisition of complex collections such as born digital and hybrid art. See Ensom, T, and McConnachie, S. (2022) ‘Preserving and sharing born-digital and hybrid objects from and across the National Collection’, Decision Model Report: March 2022. Available at:

  • Matters in Media Art (n.d.) ‘Guidelines for the care of media artworks’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

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: [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: [accessed 24 October 2023]

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