Greg Lynn's Embryological House: case study in the preservation of digital architecture

Introduction     Background     Animate Form     Digital Life     Technical Challenges     Other Challenges     Discoveries     Future Steps

The research into digital preservation strategies has also led to the proposal of specific approaches to network organization, physical infrastructure, and conditions of access to researchers, including security issues. A survey of other architectural institutions on issues of copyright related to digital preservation has been completed and results are being compiled.

Traditional collections management systems and their fields of properties do not accommodate well the characteristics of new media: for example, file size, duration, geometric type, etc. Recognition of these properties is important to cross-referencing research, and for preservation management. We are therefore developing, based on the characteristics of the various Embryological House files, a revised set of properties to be accommodated by The Museum System, the collections management system employed at the CCA. In particular the files' nature as contextual objects suggests specific strategies for cataloguing as well as preservation. Depending on the preservation strategy adopted, a file's access and use can require a precise understanding and record of its relationship to other files and to variations of the given file. The possibility of including such hierarchical relationships in the CCA's collections management system is being examined.

Below: conceptual diagram of a digital file as a contextual object. A given file often refers to other files; important parts of an AutoCAD drawing, for example, may be located outside the file—in a library or a base drawing. And the given file may itself be referred to by other digital objects. These relationships are known as dependencies; one file is dependent on the other. Dependencies are diagrammed below in the horizontal planes, and are indicated by thin arrows. Files can also partake of vertical relationships: there are often several versions of a given file, as the design develops over time. These versions are connected in the diagram by thick arrows. Each of version of a given file has its own dependencies. Managing a collection of digital objects requires a knowledge of any given file's relationship to other files in the collection, in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. If these relationships are lost, parts of the file go missing, and it may become unreadable.