Interview Michael Murtaugh

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H&D Summer Academy participant Flaminia Fortunato is part of a group of students from the Bern University of Applied Science, enrolled in the Master Program “Conservation and Restoration of Modern Materials and Media”. They are currently working on a project on the preservation of digital video, with a specific focus on video codecs and their sustainability, working in collaboration with media conservators from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In the past, museums and institutions acquired video artworks on analog and later digital tape formats, which had the main advantage of being industry standardized. Today, video artworks are being created by artists and delivered to museums as files, which can come in a variety of frame rates and resolutions. Moreover, the increasingly wide range of codecs available for end-users and specialized professional applications adds to the complexity and difficulty of long-term preservation of digital video. The research is primarily aimed at identifying the preservation risks posed by video codec and container obsolescence, and the changes that occur during transcoding/normalization, in an effort to resolve outstanding questions and provide some basic and technically-informed guidelines and recommendations for museums and other collecting institutions with digital video artworks.

Active Archives

How do you define an “active open archive”? (Michaels answer here)

How do you imagine an active archive could be used in the preservation domain and more specifically applied to museum collections? (Michaels answer here)

Free and open source

Which challenges or/and limitations have you encountered so far in the use of free software and free licenses in your working experience at Constant? (Michaels answer here)

Which ethical values do you consider of primary importance in digital preservation? (Michaels answer here)

Which restrictions, in technical and legal terms, are there to consider in the adoption of video codec library exchange between institutions? How do you think this “methodology” could be further developed and ultimately applied? (Michaels answer here)


There is an observed trend in the preservation of technology-based or -dependent works of art for the technologies they rely on (hardware or software) to become obsolete, presenting short-term and long-term risks to compatibility, accessibility, and consistent playback. Do you see this trend continuing into the future with respect to software such as video codecs? (Michaels answer here)

What factors contribute to this trend and what factors might mitigate this? (Michaels answer here)