An archive is a collection of objects that together provide information about a place, a person, an event, or a moment in time. Archives are used all the time, as either digital databases of information or physical collections of files and objects. Whatever the format, archives are usually catalogued, meaning each item in the collection has a letter or number assigned to it which is typically recorded on an online database system. Archives have an important place in society, as the information they hold can help us to learn about the past and inform the future.
In the arts, an archive is often a collection of works or material about a specific artist or art movement, and is usually either part of a private collection or kept and maintained by a gallery or museum. The Tate galleries, for example, have an archive that contains material relating to the history of British art by artists, arts organisations, and prominent art world figures. Because the Tate is government funded their archives︎︎︎ are open to the public. They also have a collection of digitised archives available online, these are physical artworks which have been either scanned or photographed in high resolution and made into digitised images.
A recent challenge facing archivists is the need to archive artworks that are born digital. These are artworks that exist solely on or can only be accessed through digital mediums. Net art is an example of this, as the artworks do not have a physical presence and therefore the task of cataloguing them becomes difficult. Furthermore, as developments in technology are rapidly changing, some technologies are becoming obsolete and out of date (remember VHS tapes, or floppy disks!) posing the risk of loss of access. Because many net.art artworks are accessed via hyperlink, their existence, and preservation, is dependent on the platform upon which it exists, meaning that archives now face the challenge of preserving and maintaining software, operating systems, applications and devices.
Net.Art Anthology ︎︎︎