Home - 2.1 Conservation strategies 2.1.2 Migration

2.1 Conservation strategies

2.1.2 Migration


“To migrate an artwork involves upgrading equipment and source material.” [1]


For example, migrating the televisions used in Nam June Paik’s artwork Royal Canadian Mounted Police consisted of replacing them with LCD or plasma screens. “The major disadvantage of migration is that the appearance of the original artwork may change substantially when the technology undergoes an evolutionary jump, as when cathode-ray tubes give way to flat screens.” [2] In the case of Paik’s work, migration was considered an acceptable option, given that the televisions are only partly visible and are presented most of the time behind a metal grill or a fabric, which lessens the consequences on a perception level if recent technology is substituted. It is this partial concealment of the screen that allows for a transfer to another type of technology without unduly compromising the integrity of the work.


For digital computer files, conversion and migration simplify digital conservation by limiting the number of file formats that must be conserved, thus making the management of their renewal over time more reliable. These strategies do, however, have a serious drawback, which must be taken into account with an archive such as that for the project Embryological House by Greg Lynn. Embryological House was created with software applications specifically chosen for their ability to manage and manipulate complex geometries. One such application is MicroStation [3], which is used in a number of fields, from architecture to geographic information systems. Another application is Maya [4], which is generally used in the production of animated films. When files of this type are converted into other formats, the geometry is subsequently described differently than in the original formats, which is how important information risks being lost—information that precisely defines the original geometry.


[1] Alain Depocas, Jon Ippolito and Caitlin Jones, “Variable Media Glossary” (2003), http://www.variablemedia.net/pdf/Glossary_ENG.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

[3] MicroStation is a CAD software product for 2- and 3-dimensional design and drafting, developed and sold by Bentley Systems. The latest versions of the software are released solely for Microsoft Windows operating systems, but historically MicroStation was available for Macintosh platforms and a number of Unix-like operating systems. MicroStation is the platform architectural and engineering software package developed by Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Among a number of things, it generates 2D/3D vector graphic objects and elements.

"MicroStation", Wikipedia, available from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroStation, accessed 10 November, 2009.

[4] Autodesk Maya, or simply Maya (Sanskrit word for "illusion"), is a high-end 3D computer graphics and 3D modeling software package originally developed by Alias Systems Corporation, but now owned by Autodesk as part of the Media and Entertainment division. Autodesk acquired the software in October 2005 upon purchasing Alias. Maya is used in the film and TV industry, as well as for computer and video games, architectural visualisation and design.

"Maya", Wikipedia, available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk_Maya, accessed 15 October, 2009.