Hurricane Sandy Highlights the Problems of Digital Archives | The Information Professional |

"The damage from Sandy’s flooding took Chelsea galleries by surprise. The swelling water knocked artworks from walls and poured into basement storage areas, where art spaces and artists alike often store the work that’s not on display. Zach Feuer Gallery’s sloped space meant that water washed directly toward fragile work. Printed Matter encountered a similar issue, with soaked stock going to waste on the sidewalk. But it wasn’t only physical property that was damaged in the hurricane."


The salt content and the toxicity of the water that came into the building corrupted everything it touched. Years and years of exhibition records, files, and media-driven artist projects were put at risk. Though we think of digital creations as somehow non-physical entities, most of these works were made in the pre-cloud era, and stored as extremely physical things vulnerable to physical problems. The digital isn’t so digital any more when the metal computer tower files reside in is getting eaten away by chemicals. Eyebeam had to go into crisis mode.

Teams of conservators gathered and volunteered to clean, as best they could, the media storage formats that formed Eyebeam’s artistic and curatorial heritage. New media documentarian and Eyebeam resident Jonathan Minard participated in the efforts, and published a short video showing the problems the institution now faces. - Video here: