In an age of rapid technological change and high-speed technology, the question of how to preserve digital heritage becomes increasingly important. The HeK has dedicated itself to finding answers, and maintains its own collection along those lines, together with its usual exhibitions and events. This collection focuses not only on digital works but also includes installation- and software-based as well as site-specific projects.
The initial foray into this realm, conducted as part of the tri-national research project Digitale Medienkunst am Oberrhein (Digital Media Art in the Upper Rhine) – Conservation – Restoration – Preservation (2010-2012), yielded a comprehensive publication on the preservation of digital art, to which the HeK contributed a case study and texts.
This research project enabled the HeK to launch its collection of works on permanent loan, with funding from the Federal Office of Culture, the Kunstkredit Basel-Stadt, kulturelles.bl and the Department of Culture of the Canton of Basel County. Gifts from the Christoph Merian Foundation helped form the basis of the collection, which is to be expanded in the long term and will include a central archive for artistic production. Key to the collection is the comprehensive documentation of works and the outlining of individual solutions for their preservation. To that end, the institution seeks exchange with national and international colleagues as well as with scientific and research institutions.
The collection focuses not only on digital works; it also includes installation- and software-based works as well as site-specific projects for the Dreispitz area and all of Basel, all of which were – or will be – created as part of exhibition projects at the HeK. The focus of the collection is not on technical formats but on substantive issues that create socially relevant references; deal with access to spheres of information; reflect and form networked systems; and demonstrate a new aesthetic practice or enable new kinds of perceptual experiences.
The HeK distinguishes itself by its unique collection, focusing on "born-digital-art" - art that has emerged and is situated in the digital domain. Media art includes many forms of artistic expression and the use of different materials - from software-based art, computer code, moving images to interactive installations and sound environments. The HeK takes into account this wide range of artistic expressions in the field of art and media technology in his collection. The focus is not on technical formats, but on substantive issues that create socially relevant references, discuss approaches to the information sphere, reflect networked systems and educate, show a new aesthetic practice, or allow new perception experiences. The diverse artistic expressions make it necessary to set priorities. The HeK puts them in the area of software and NET-based art, which has develpoed a specific artistic practice in Switzerland. Many of the works are available online. Otherwise the artworks are not permanently exhibited, but appear in exhibition contexts.
Digital art, in its countless manifestations, has become a household word in creative production; its cultural relevance is unquestioned. But its conservation does present new challenges to museums and collections alike: What can be done if the technology is already out of date the moment you switch on the computer? How do we deal with works of art that are dependent on proprietary software that’s no longer being updated by its manufacturers, or whose manufacturer no longer exists? How can net-based projects be preserved for the future?