Home II. Cataloguing and documenting Archival Documentation

Archival Documentation

Archiving as much pertinent information as possible concerning the new media work acquired is essential, considering not only standard logistic documentation but also bearing in mind the information regarding its presentation and its preservation. A complete documentation of the work includes a description of all elements constituting the work: a list of the components acquired as well as additional components required for its operation while on exhibition; the components visible to the visitors during the presentation and those hidden in the technical booth. It is also necessary to have a complete inventory of the following:


• audiovisual equipment, specifying makes, models, date of fabrication and serial numbers;

• all master and sub master tapes including exhibition copies, their support and the date they were produced;

• for digital components, an inventory of the hardware with specifications of integrated software and program codes.


(See the Descriptive Table - Essential Data-Entry Fields)


Descriptions of the conceptual aspects as well as the artist’s intentions remain a guideline as the work adapts to technological changes, evolving and transforming through each presentation. This archival documentation insures the preservation of the integrity of the work, which can be defined using the previously mentioned descriptive levels. An understanding of how the work operates on a conceptual as well as functional (technical) level is essential in determining its “behaviour”, for it is this behaviour that must be reproduced during its exhibition and throughout its technological changes.


For example, when Bill Viola’s The Sleepers was acquired, the artist provided a complete description of the work, including a list of the required materials for the installation and a detailed inventory of the work’s technical equipment. He also provided signed sketches and floor plans for The Sleepers, clearly describing his intentions and requirements. This serves as both a certificate of authenticity and as the primary documents that describe the essential behaviour of the work defining the physical and aesthetic parameters that need to be reproduced at each presentation of the work.




Documents from the archives record for The Sleepers by Bill Viola - Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal



The artist questionnaire will help determine the installation parameters by defining the relationship between the artist’s concept or intention and its technical expression, specifying what the work needs to do and how it needs to behave. The questionnaire will also specify the restrictions as well as the modifications allowed by the artist