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Friday, May 31 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Electronic Media) Technical Documentation of Source Code at the Museum of Modern Art

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Deena Engel, Department of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University and Glenn Wharton, Time-based Media Conservator, Museum of Modern Art & Museum Studies, New York University

As part of its program to conserve software-based artworks, the Museum of Modern Art undertook a risk analysis of thirteen works that use a variety of software programs, programming languages, and libraries. Eleven artists and two programmers were interviewed as part of this project. They were asked about the software, the hardware dependencies, and their concerns for future presentation of the artworks.

Risks assessed in this study include the potential impact from changes and upgrades to hardware, operating systems, programming languages and/or software applications used to create the artwork that would render the software or any associated multi-media files obsolete, thus jeopardizing future exhibition.

It became evident from this analysis that acquisition and technical documentation of source code is key to preserving these works. MoMA partnered with the Computer Science Department at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematics to perform a pilot study to document the source code of four artworks. The project used standard software engineering methods to analyze the code and create textual documentation for future programmers who may need to recompile or re-write it for new operating environments. The documentation will also aid future researchers in better understanding the principles behind the work. Technical documentation of code is standard in the software and business industries, but it is new for museums. Due to artist concerns for public experience of their work, standard methods in the software industry must be adapted for museum collections.

In this presentation, the authors describe their collaboration to document the source code of these artworks. The focus is on documenting how aesthetic properties such as color, movement, and sound are determined in the source code.

avatar for Deena Engel

Deena Engel

Clinical Professor, New York University
Deena Engel is a Clinical Professor as well as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Computer Science Minors programs in the Department of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. She teaches undergraduate computer science courses on web and database technologies, as well as courses for undergraduate and graduate students in the Digital Humanities and the Arts. She also... Read More →
avatar for Glenn Wharton

Glenn Wharton

Clinical Associate Professor, Museum Studies / New York University
Glenn Wharton is a Clinical Associate Professor in Museum Studies at New York University. From 2007-2013 he served as Media Conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he established the time-based media conservation program for video, performance, and software-based collections. In 2006 he founded the non-profit organization Voices in Contemporary Art (VoCA). Glenn received his Ph.D. in Conservation from the Institute of... Read More →

Friday May 31, 2013 9:30am - 10:00am
JW Marriott Meeting Room 201-203 19 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204