A History of the Internet through MoMA’s Exhibition Sites: Web-Archiving Art Content at NYARC

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Papers at the Summit on New Media Archiving

Presentation Title:

  • A History of the Internet through MoMA’s Exhibition Sites: Web-Archiving Art Content at NYARC

Presenter(s):



Abstract:

  • The growing number of museum websites and web-based art content poses major challenges to museums, archives, and libraries in terms of their collecting, archiving, and preservation. If web content digital cultural heritage in its own right—as established by UNESCO in 2001 (31 C/Resolutions,2001)–should museums collect it and archive it? If so, which websites should they preserve, and how often? Since 2013 the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC)—consisting of the libraries of The Frick Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Brooklyn Museum—has created a web archive that aims at capturing and preserving a wide range of online art-relevant resources, including museum and gallery websites, artist websites, digital catalogues raisonnés, online scholarly projects, art research webpages, etc. Web archiving refers to the practice of capturing websites as they appear on the live web at a given point in time and reproducing their appearance and functionality.

    While working for NYARC’s web archiving program between 2015 and 2016, I focused primarily on the archiving of online exhibition content at MoMA in the form of microsites that the museum has created to accompany its exhibitions since 1995. While these exhibition microsites were considered at the time nothing more than complementary materials to the museum’s physical exhibitions, they often contained web-exclusive content that was otherwise not available in printed materials. Through the years, MoMA—like many other art institutions around the world—began to create online-only projects that were conceived of not only as supplements to exhibitions and publications but as virtual projects that informed, enriched and sometimes even replaced the physical museum visit. Seen as a whole, these microsites also tell a specific story in the development of interactive online content within the context of museums—from static information-heavy web pages, to the rise of the blog format and the explosion of Flash and interactive sites in the early 2000s.

    Through an introduction to NYARC’s web collections, I briefly discuss the general need to archive web-based resources as well as the general problems associated with it. Additionally, utilizing MoMA’s online exhibition content as a case example, I argue that curated web archives can also serve as historical documents of the development of web content within museums and cultural institutions.

    [Presentation video removed on request of the presenter]


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