Retention of Technology-Based Interactives

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One blends art, technology, and interpretation.  It includes real works from the museum’s collection as well as interactive, technology-based activities and games.  For example, Global Influences presents visitors with an artwork and asks them to guess which two countries on the map influenced the work in question; and crowd favorite Strike a Pose asks visitors to imitate the pose of a sculpture and invites them to save and share the resulting photograph.

It’s really cool stuff.  But as the museum plans a refresh of the space, the archives and IT department are starting to contemplate how to preserve the history of Gallery One.  The interactives will have to go, monitors and other hardware will be repurposed, and new artwork and interactive experiences will be installed.  We need to decide what to retain in archives and figure out how to collect and preserve whatever we decide to keep.

These pending decisions bring up familiar archival questions and ask us to apply them to complex digital materials: what about this gallery installation has enduring value?  Is it enough to retain a record of the look and feel of the space, perhaps create videos of the interactives?  Is it necessary to retain and preserve all of the code?

Records retention schedules call for the permanent retention of gallery labels, exhibition photographs, and other exhibition records but do not specifically address technology-based interactives.  The museum is developing an institutional repository for digital preservation using Fedora, but we are still in the testing phases for relatively simple image collections and we aren’t ready to ingest complex materials like the interactives from Gallery One.

As we work through these issues I would be grateful for input from the archives community.  How do we go about this? Does anyone have experience with the retention and preservation technology-based interactives?

Susan Hernandez is the Digital Archivist and Systems Librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her responsibilities include accessioning and preserving the museum’s electronic records; overseeing library and archives databases and systems; developing library and archives digitization programs; and serving on the development team for the museum’s institutional repository. Leave a comment or contact her directly at shernandez@clevelandart.org.