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Featured News Item:
Smithsonian American Art Museum shares the acquisition workflow and sample forms for TBMA collections

Featured Case Study:
Paul Sharits, Shutter Interface, (1975), Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Featured Working Group Project:
Interviews with Thought Leaders

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The Smithsonian's
Time-Based Media and Digital Art Working Group

Time-Based Media and Digital Art includes art works with technology-based components that present specific challenges for conservation, documentation, installation, and acquisition.

The Time Based Media and Digital Art (TBMA) Working Group includes staff from various Smithsonian museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and National Portrait Gallery. For a full list of members, click here.


Beginning with the March 2010 symposium "Collaborations in Conserving Time-Based Art," the Time-Based Media and Digital Art Working Group was
formed to develop pan-institutional protocols, with input from and relevance for peer institutions and practitioners nationally and internationally, for the acquisition, installation, and long-term care of time-based and digital art.

The development of this site offers a means of disseminating the Working Group's findings to other organizations and within the broader community of practice. Input from and collaboration between technical experts, media technicians, conservators, and curators is crucial to finding significant solutions of mutual benefit.

The TBMA Working Group is supported by Level I and Level II Grand Challenges Grants from the Consortium for Understanding the American Experience and the Consortium for World Cultures, and a Collections Care and Preservation Fund Grant.

The Smithsonian's Role

Smithsonian holdings of time-based media art are approaching nearly 200 pieces, including works by Doug Aitken, Paul Sharits, Nam June Paik, Jason Salavon, and Lincoln Schatz. The greater Washington area is home to a variety of ongoing projects in the area of the digital humanities, from the study of the physical properties of storage materials such as DVDs, CD ROMs, and video tape at the Library of Congress, to the anthropological effort to preserve historic recordings of Native American Voices at the National History Museum.

Understanding the increasingly important place that time-based art occupies within the Smithsonian's collections and acknowledging the wealth of local expertise, the TBMA Working Group recognizes the potential of using the interdisciplinary framework of the Smithsonian to research and develop the resources necessary to address the technical and intellectual questions inherent in the acquisition, installation, and long-term care of time-based art.

Collections and Preservation Strategies at the Smithsonian


DAMS Presentation
by Isabel Meyer

NPG Archival Package
by Alex Cooper

The Smithsonian has employed a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), which provides tools, processes, and workflows for the ingest, storage, and preservation of the Smithsonian’s digital assets, in conjunction with The Museum System (TMS), a collection management system used to catalog and manage the Smithsonian’s collections. Read a presentation by DAMS Branch Manager Isabel Meyer.

The creation of object and media records in the DAMS and TMS offer a way of cataloging and maintaining time-based media art while also presenting the challenge of capturing the specificities of individual artworks within standardized rubrics. With such varied formats and delivery mechanisms, the Smithsonian strives to find a balance between case-by-case specificities and general practices for acquiring and caring for time-based media art. Each museum is working to build their practices for the preservation of the works in their collections.

A diagram of the National Portrait Gallery’s Archival Process depicts the documentation and housing of the structural and collections information of an archived artwork (artist interviews, metadata, codec software, codec information, and exhibition information, among other data). See the Case Studies for more information on the strategies of each Museum.

As the working group works towards standard documentation practices in TMS, the group has published standards for using the Smithsonian DAMS to house digital artwork component files. Approached very much like a storage vault, the SI DAMS TBMA Package outlines the required actions taken by both the Museum and IT staff to ensure that the digital artwork files are appropriately taken care of inside the SI DAMS.
See the SI DAMS TBMA Package Definitions and the SI DAMS TBMA Checklist.