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Saturday, June 2 • 11:30am - 11:45am
(Electronic Media) What Happened When? Creating Retroactive Iteration Reports for Time-based Media Artworks

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Since 1999, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) has been building their collection of time-based media art. In recent years The Met has increasingly acquired time-based media, and the Museum currently holds 250 artworks in its collection. The Met established a Time-Based Media Working Group in 2001, which now comprises conservators, collection managers, curators, archivists, registrars, technology experts, and other allied museum professionals. In the past few years the Museum has spearheaded initiatives, collaborations, programs and activities surrounding the unique preservation needs of the collection, including engaging the Museum’s first Fellow in the conservation of time-based media art.

A current best practice in the documentation of time-based media artworks is to create iteration reports, which document the way that a variable artwork is displayed in a specific exhibition. Although this is best conducted at the time of exhibition, the author, the incoming Fellow, was challenged to create retroactive iteration reports for past exhibitions of works in the collection. This project provides the Museum with an opportunity to create a complete history of exhibiting time-based media art at the Museum and in some cases also prior.

In this paper the author presents the research involved in creating iteration reports for past exhibitions. Cross-departmental collaboration is key, as conservation relies on conversations and interviews with a wide range of staff members involved in the installation of the works. In addition, this project requires creative methods for external research to provide photographic and video documentation of the artworks in the Museum’s collection. Creating these reports proved challenging, as the author was not present for the installation, and was relying on secondary sources and prior documentation.

Unique information was gained through research into other fields. The author investigated scientific research related to the formation and recall of human memories, in an effort to overcome challenges posed by eyewitness accounts. This included researching publications related to the improvement of a subject’s recall of past events.The results of this research will be demonstrated in case studies from artworks in The Met’s collection, as well as a discussion of lessons learned and practical advice gained throughout the project. This paper will be of particular interest to museums and professionals who are starting to address the conservation needs of time-based media artworks in their collections.

avatar for Alexandra Nichols

Alexandra Nichols

Sherman Fairchild Foundation Fellow, Photograph Conservation Department, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Alexandra Nichols is a Sherman Fairchild Foundation Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art focusing on the conservation of time-based media art. Prior to The Met she completed a Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellowship in Time-based Media at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 2016... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 11:30am - 11:45am MDT
Briargrove Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston