Keynote Lecture | Your Archival Format Will Not Save You

Event time: 
Friday, May 11, 2018 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Jon Ippolito, Professor and Program Coordinator of New Media, Co-director of the Still Water Lab, and Director of the Digital Curation Program, University of Maine

From the 1700s forward, solander boxes, flat files, and climate-controlled vaults were the mainstays of an artist’s archive. The last fifty years have seen these analog bulwarks against decay displaced by a successive wave of digital counterparts, from boxes of videotapes to shelves of hard drives to cloud storage subscriptions. To cope with this rotating panoply of obsolescing hardware, professional archivists have increasingly focused on saving bits instead of boxes, digitizing analog art materials and extracting bits from floppy drives and CD-ROMs to save them in so-called archival formats.

Each archival format is designed to be universal, self-contained, and platform independent, distilling images, movies, and websites into an immaterial medium free of the dependencies that plague specific hardware like Dell, DAT, or Digibeta. Sprinkle some metadata and funding on archival files, and the original artworks, or ephemera, are supposed to spring back to life for exhibition and/or scholarly review.

This keynote will aim to debunk this pipe dream, considering specific cases where today’s archival formats completely fail to produce their intended benefit. Drawing on themes from the book Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (, the talk will conclude with alternative strategies that are expansive and creative enough to capture the vibrancy that makes the art of our era worth preserving in the first place.

This program is free and onsite registration will be available on the day of the symposium. For a full schedule of events, visit the calendar, or for more information, please contact Cate Peebles, Postgraduate Research Associate at the Center’s Archives ( | +1 475 202 2390).

This program will be live streamed.

About Jon Ippolito

Ippolito is a new media artist, writer, and curator whose work has been recognized internationally. He has received awards from the Thoma, Tiffany, Lannan, and American Foundations. At the Guggenheim in New York, he curated the first art museum exhibition that focused on virtual reality, as well as the Nam June Paik retrospective with John G. Hanhardt in 2000. As Professor of New Media at the University of Maine, Ippolito has founded a peer-to-peer digital badges initiative and a graduate Digital Curation program. At the Still Water lab, co-founded with Joline Blais, he helped build social software such as the Variable Media Questionnaire, The Pool, ThoughtMesh, and the Cross-Cultural Partnership. He has published articles in periodicals ranging from the Art Journal to the Washington Post and has contributed chapters to over twenty books. Ippolito co-authored At the Edge of Art (Thames & Hudson 2006) with Blais and Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (MIT 2014) with Richard Rinehart.

Lecture Hall
Space is limited
Preregistration is required
(This venue is wheelchair accessible)
Free but register in advance
Open to: 
General Public