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Six Years of Education in the Conservation of Digital Prints

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As an increasing number of artists and photographers have been using digital printing processes in their work over the past two decades, conservators, curators, museum registrars, and related professionals are grappling with issues associated with the acquisition, preservation and conservation of digital prints. This has not been an easy journey, since museum personnel are, for the most part, used to dealing with artists' techniques that are not subject to continuous change; it is precisely this characteristic of the digital world, however, that has delayed the conservation field from tackling the preservation issues of digital prints, some of them of fundamental novelty to the field. The intimidating speed and technological complexity of the many printing processes, their individual surges in popularity and their passing, and the often ample variants in each process can best be handled in the conservation environment by creating a categorized hierarchy of processes, structures, and materials. This, in turn, serves as a basis for developing recommendations for storage, exhibition, and practical conservation treatment.

The authors began jointly teaching about digital printing processes in the conservation field in 2001, and have given a large number of seminars and lectures, individually and in collaboration, on the topic to over 400 conservation professionals and artists since then. A number of lessons have been learned during this time, among them the fundamental fact that the identification of the printing process is the most valuable tool in conservation practice, since it necessitates an understanding of the technical details of print production; this results in information on the materials involved and thus allows the conservator to make decisions regarding handling, storage, exhibition, and treatment. To this purpose, a guide to identification has been developed and is currently awaiting publication. Further topics of the seminars have been managing the often conflicting sets of terminology used by the digital printing industry and the conservation field, and the advantages of close collaboration between the conservator, the printmaker, and the artist.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-01-01

More about this publication?
  • For more than 25 years, NIP has been the leading forum for discussion of advances and new directions in non-impact and digital printing technologies. A comprehensive, industry-wide conference, this meeting includes all aspects of the hardware, materials, software, images, and applications associated with digital printing systems, including drop-on-demand ink jet, wide format ink jet, desktop and continuous ink jet, toner-based electrophotographic printers, production digital printing systems, and thermal printing systems, as well as the engineering capability, optimization, and science involved in these fields.

    Since 2005, NIP has been held in conjunction with the Digital Fabrication Conference.

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