The Preservation and Conservation of Digital Technology Heritage: A Case Study of New Media Art Collection of National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Yu-Hsien Chen, Shin Chieh Tzeng
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Five: 2017-2018

ABSTRACT

In Taiwan, new media artworks started to gain popularity in 2006. Since then, all domestic representative museums have been preserving new media artworks. Among them, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art (NTMoFA) collects the largest amount. Acquisition, cataloging, preservation, conservation, and restoration are a museum’s key functions in maintaining the originality and authenticity of its collections. However, new media pieces constantly challenge the traditional concept of minimal intervention when maintaining and restoring them to their original forms, as more physical work is required for these pieces. Currently, there is little discussion on the preservation of new media artworks in Taiwan. We suggest that, based on the current administrative system, it is necessary to build up new methodologies and strategies for conserving new media artworks in full scale. Our hope is that this research can provide a useful reference and different vision to art museum conservators and other interdisciplinary practitioners who are interested in conservation of new media artworks.

INTRODUCTION

The main objective of this research is to understand the processes of preservation, conservation, and restoration of new media artworks in Taiwan’s public art museums, the reasons behind the choices made in those processes, and their impact on the works. By reviewing the related literature, we first investigate the characteristics of new media art, how it has been developed in Taiwan, principles of preserving and restoring the art collections, and its required professional museum expertise and ethics. Next, we study the discussion in the related domestic literature on the subjects of new media artworks’ preservation and re-exhibition. We then summarize the obtained experience from both inside and outside of Taiwan, and the associated challenges and opportunities in preserving new media artworks. Finally, we investigate the new media art collections of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art (NTMoFA) as a case study.

This research adopts the method of semi structured in-depth interviewing. The professionals interviewed include practitioners who preserve and repair artworks. We focus on three of NTMoFA’s new media art collections as the main subjects for the interviews and reconstruct on-site real-world scenes of preservation and restoration. Last, from both the cultural and technological perspectives of new media, we analyze the transformation of the principles of preservation and conservation in museums, followed by summarizing the research and presenting conclusions. We suggest that, based on the current administrative system, it is necessary to build up new methodologies and strategies for conserving new media artworks in full scale. Our hope is that this research can provide a useful reference and different vision to art museum conservators and other interdisciplinary practitioners who are interested in conservation of new media artworks. A new project called “Save Media Art” in Taiwan—founded by the Taiwan Digital Art Foundation together with the project directors Yuhsien Chen and Tzuchuan Lin—can be seen as a starting point of developing the profession of preserving and conserving new media artworks in Taiwan. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This paper originally appeared as a master of arts thesis of Yu-Hsien Chen in 2017 and is a summarized version of the author presenting at the 46th AIC annual meeting in 2018. The author would like to acknowledge the support of the National Taiwan Museum of Art on an earlier draft, the Taiwan Digital Art Foundation for further encouragement, and everyone who contributed to the discussions that helped develop the ideas put forward here.

NOTES

1. For the full paper and references quoted in this paper, please see http://handle.ncl.edu.tw/11296/ndltd/36063678941455990581 (in Mandarin Chinese)

2. For a PowerPoint presentation, see https://www.slideshare.net/JoyceChen37/2018-aics-46th-annual-meetingemg-group-presentation-by-yuhsien-chen-on-2-june

CONTACT INFORMATION

Yu-Hsein Chen
Time-based Media Conservator
National Taiwan Museum of Arts, Taiwan
growtw@gmail.com