Eric Tigerstedt: Amplitude sound drawing on film.
Eric Tigerstedt: Amplitude sound drawing on film, 1915?. Image: Eric Tigerstedt Collection, Technical Museum.

Conservation Planning for Media Arts

The connection between media art and evolving technology is problematic for the long-term preservation of art. Even new art pieces may become endangered at a rapid pace. MEHI – Media Art History in Finland project charts and pilots the conservation of media art through key artworks, whose conservation plans will be made public for future use in exhibiting and preserving art.

The conservation plans will be made in cooperation with artists, collection organizations, Nordic partners and the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The goal is to share knowledge for public use and to further develop the professional standards, education, research and collection work of media arts.

The need to increase competence in media art conservation has been noted in strategies and surveys by AV-arkki (2015), Frame Contemporary Art Finland (2018) and the Metkos Project at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (2021).

The objective of the MEHI project is to create conservation plans for ten diverse works of Finnish media art from different decades.The conservator will chart out the history, context, intended meaning and condition of the selected piece, and will then create a conservation plan based on the acquired information. The selected artworks will be named by the consulting experts of MEHI. Conservation can not proceed without a conservation plan.

The conservation plan of an artwork within media arts may include:

  • analysis of meaning
  • historical context
  • the history of the art piece
  • the artist’s view of the art piece
  • depiction of the artwork, its measurements and physical qualities
  • evaluation and documentation of the artwork’s functionality
  • condition evaluation of the artwork’s individual parts
  • variation possibilities for the artwork’s parts
  • ideal preservation conditions and instructions for handing
  • evaluation of the need for conservation work and its possible costs

In practice a conservation plan report can be compiled through e.g. interviewing the artists, collecting literature and doing practical research on the selected artwork.

The conservation plans will be turned into written reports. The plans and the acquired information will be deposited in the MEHI database. The blank documentation base for artworks can be downloaded for personal use through the MEHI material bank. In the future, the objective is to publish additional reports and recommendations for advancing the long-term preservation of media artworks.

The Finnish Light Art Society FLASH ry is responsible for the conservation work done in the MEHI project. The conservator in 2021 was Karoliina Hämäläinen, and the conservator from the beginning of 2022 onwards is Anniina Hatakka.