February 20, 2013

Cornell Archive Receives $300K Grant To Preserve Access to Digital Artwork

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Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media, a part of the Cornell University Library, received a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities last week to help preserve its digital artwork.

The Goldsen Archive contains international, new media artwork, according to the Goldsen Archive website.

Prof. Timothy Murray, comparative literature, English, curator of the Goldsen Archive, said the grant was one of the largest the NEH awards.

“We did very well there … It was the largest [grant] that was awarded in New York,” Murray said.

Murray added that the grant was very selective.

“We are extremely pleased to win one of a small number of awards from a significant pool of applicants,” Murray said.

The NEH grant money is especially useful for the archives because its works are dependent on technology that is quickly becoming obsolete, according to Murray.

“The main two categories [in the archive] are work on CD-ROMs and work that was done for the Internet,” Murray said.

The work on CD-ROMs completed in the 1990s and 2000s was jeopardized when Apple switched to the Intel chip in 2004, according to Murray.

“Suddenly, all of that work that helped create media art is unreadable on new Apple computers. We’re running it on old Macs, and when those Macs crash … we’re in a position of extreme duress — we have one of the world’s leading collections of that kind of work,”  Murray said.

The Goldsen Archive is an archive of great  importance to the art world, according to Murray.

“The archive was founded 10 years ago, and it’s become one of the leading international repositories of digital and electronic art. We have extensive holdings … and documentation of online art and educational resources,” Murray said.

The curators will use this money to invent new ways to preserve digital resources.

“In the end, the standards we develop will have importance not only for new media art but across the library, the arts, social sciences and even early gaming. We’re hoping to develop some tangible standards and practices that will allow a lot of these works to survive,” said Murray.

In a blog post on the Cornell University Library website, Associate University Librarian Oya Y. Rieger ’10 said that receiving the grant money was a significant step for the archive.

“Preserving and maintaining access to interactive and technically complex content presents multiple challenges to our basic assumptions about preservation. Unlike other types of digital artworks, many of these digital objects are designed for ephemeral experiences,” Rieger said. “One of our goals is to anticipate the needs of future researchers and acknowledge the core experiences that need to be captured to preserve these artifacts.”

Original Author: Julia Pascale