Brown University Library has been approved for a $20,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support “New Frameworks to Preserve and Publish Born-Digital Art.” This project will develop new frameworks for the long-term preservation and presentation of born-digital art. Brown University Library’s project is among 1,125 projects across America totaling more than $26.6 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2022 funding.
Preserving born-digital work can be challenging because platforms, hardware, and software are often updated or replaced, changing and even degrading how the original art is displayed. Through “containerization” — a portable, low-cost method of preserving and presenting the code, operating system, and text for experimental, born-digital art — future readers will still be able to view, distribute, collaborate on, and experiment with the original work even if its infrastructure has been altered or discontinued.
Dr. Ashley Champagne, Brown University Library’s Head of Digital Scholarship Project Planning and Public Humanities Subject Librarian, and Principal Investigator, is enthusiastic about the award and the impact it will have on the preservation of born-digital art:
We’re thrilled to receive this award that will help us work directly with born-digital artists to preserve experimental art that might otherwise be lost. The goal of this grant is to develop models that will not only preserve the work of the artists we’re working with but also provide models that others can learn from in the future. Brown University is the perfect place to work on this project as our Literary Arts program draws talented artists from across the world. And the staff at the Library and Brown’s Center for Computation and Visualization are skilled at containerization, which has the greatest potential for preserving and presenting the code for experimental born-digital works.
Brown University, one of the world’s leading institutions for born-digital art, is a central hub for artists experimenting with new digital technologies and producing a vast array of digital objects. There is no other institution that consistently produces as diverse a collection of born-digital art. For example, several students at Brown create exhibits and born-digital works that utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to produce varying presentations depending on how the user interacts with the piece. Because the presentation of the work changes constantly, web archiving does not adequately preserve the work as that method cannot capture how the work constantly changes. Field-defining artistry like this requires new frameworks for preservation and presentation that can be used at Brown and beyond. With the support of this grant, Brown’s highly skilled technical staff will continue its work to develop new and standards-compliant frameworks to preserve and publish these born-digital artworks.
“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts and cultural organizations throughout the nation with these grants, including Brown University Library, providing opportunities for all of us to live artful lives,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “The arts contribute to our individual well-being, the well-being of our communities, and to our local economies. The arts are also crucial to helping us make sense of our circumstances from different perspectives as we emerge from the pandemic and plan for a shared new normal informed by our examined experience.”
For more information on other projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.
Questions? Contact Ashley Champagne.