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Volume: 6 | Article ID: art00011
Study of contemporary art preservation with digitization
  DOI :  10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2009.6.1.art00011  Published OnlineJanuary 2009

Since 2006, the Contemporary Art Group at the Research Department of French Museum Conservation and Research Center (C2RMF - Ministry of Culture) has been working on technological obsolescence phenomena. The purpose of this program is to study the impact of technological evolution on contemporary art works and, more precisely, on their preservation. Among contemporary art collections, our group focuses essentially on technological installations, with audiovisual or digital elements, and is mainly concerned with obsolescence phenomena.Since the late 1960s, an increasing number of art works kept in contemporary art collections consist in still or moving images. Many of these images are now conserved on obsolete devices and formats which essentially has as consequences that it becomes difficult to produce new copies when operating copies are damaged; it becomes difficult when the state of conservation of originals is alterated, to remedy (i.e. to treat or replace); and it becomes difficult to find the necessary equipment to read (or diffuse) these images. It becomes simply impossible to present certain parts of museum art collections: their accessibility is threatened and hence their own conservation and preservation.Faced with this combined obsolescence of media, devices and formats, those responsible for collections, the curators or conservators, frequently carry out the digitization of repositories for purposes of diffusion or preservation. However, a digitization campaign requires specialized and technological skills which are currently not available in museums.Because arts works are unique and non standard objects, methods of mass digitization used in other domains, such as television or libraries archives can not be directly imported. We actually focus on avant-garde or experimental cinema digitization, because film in 16 or 35mm will probably soon no longer be available. We made a study on the digitization of such movies, with focused on conservation of colors and on time based phenomena like flicker. Avant-garde and experimental films often consist in abstracts images, based on colors and flicker. We wanted to evaluate the modifications leaded by the change of technology.We detail here an experiment focusing on color. We first defined the framework of reproduction adopted by the two main French repositories of art movies. Then, we worked with a postproduction company and analyzed digitization, based on the colorimetric characterization of input and output digitization devices, inspired by color management in photography.Three colorists did a digitization with the aim of preserving the original colors. The results show a huge difference between film colors and digital colors. An analyze of such differences found correlations between colorists and connects these results with photography, color management and psychophysics. Limits of color conservations in digitalization of experimental movies are exposed here as well as advices in order to minimize then.

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Matthieu Dubail, Clotilde Boust, Cécile Dazord, "Study of contemporary art preservation with digitizationin Proc. IS&T Archiving 2009,  2009,  pp 47 - 52,

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