Duration & Dimension: falling down a rabbit hole
Georgia and I were lucky to attend the Australasian Registrars Conference recently in Melbourne. This was a great opportunity for us as collection managers/registrars as it is one of the only events solely focussed on our roles and relevant topics.
The theme was Duration & Dimension and we were hosted by the Melbourne Museum. The conference looked at the challenges institutions face in collecting, caring for, documenting and ensuring the longevity of time based media and digital artworks. This includes film, audio-visual art works, digital files, complex installations that involve AV components and even software, games and applications.
I didn’t even realise some of these challenges existed, for example some speakers talked about software or applications that became obsolete mere months after being collected. Terms such as bit-rot, checksum, fixity monitoring, and iteration reports were all new for us: there was a lot to learn.
There is also the ongoing challenge of digitising analogue media such as film and magnetic tape material – the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia released a paper in 2017 that states ‘Tape that is not digitised by 2025 will in most cases be lost forever.’ Scary stuff for many museums however luckily for us we don’t hold much of this type of material at The Dowse.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however there were fantastic presentations about how to document these works, all the templates, processes and procedures needed (music to a Registrar’s ears!) from institutions such as:
One presentation that was a real highlight was from Sarah Davy at New Zealand’s own Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Sarah spoke wonderfully about the complete bicultural approach that Ngā Taonga take in preserving, managing and sharing all the amazing media they have in their collection. It was really quite inspiring.
Another highlight for me was the opening night reception at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image where we were treated to a trip down the rabbit hole into Wonderland – an amazing interactive and immersive exhibition exploring the story of Alice in Wonderland and its various interpretations over the years.
It was a fabulous few days of connecting with colleagues from New Zealand and Australia, learning huge amounts (and attempting to retain it all!) and exploring some of Melbourne’s wonderful cultural institutions. Lucky for us our collections colleagues are very generous in sharing ideas, project results, work processes and templates so we will be able to move forward into the future with the right tools and methods to help manage these types of collection items.