Time-Based Media includes film, video, digital, audio, computer-based, web-based, performance, and installation art. The technology-based components of these pieces present unique challenges for conservators, requiring extensive documentation and research at the time of acquisition and installation to ensure preservation.
As media technologies have a relatively short lifespan before becoming obsolete, the long-term preservation of these artworks is a discussion that requires constant attention. Additional considerations arise when projectors or monitors have an integral or sculptural role in the overall aesthetic of the artwork. The migration of digital artworks from one technology to another is an acceptable form of long-term preservation, but there is some risk involved in this approach. Any shift from one format to another introduces new artifacts and the potential loss of subtle intangible qualities that are integral to the obsolete technologies chosen by the artist. In response to these complex challenges, the Hirshhorn staff has formed a media preservation team to collaboratively seek out solutions. Members of this team are also very active participants in the Smithsonian Time-Based Media Working Group and in the development of preservation initiatives that explore best practices for the long-term care and preservation of time-based media artworks.