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The mind-boggling technical architecture behind MoMA's digital archives


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MoMA’s data center

At MoMA’s Inside/Out blog, Ben Fino-Radin, Digital Repository Manager at the museum, explains how MoMA is digitizing its massive analogue videotape collection, and how it plans to protect its precious digital archive in perpetuity. In somewhat technical but surprisingly lucid language, Fino-Radin writes about the complex process of transferring videotape to digital format, and then ensuring that this format remains readable one hundred years into the future. The preservation of artworks today increasingly depends not on climate-controlled warehouses and skilled art handlers, but on massive server farms and data-fetching robots. As Fino-Radin writes:

It would be irresponsibly expensive to continue using hard drive storage, as it was not quite intended for this scale of data. We are currently in the final stages of designing a completely new “warehouse” with a company called Arkivum. This system will include a small cluster of hard drives, but for primary long-term storage it adds a very cool new element to the mix: data tapes. When archival packages are first stored, they land on the cluster of disks, but are shortly thereafter copied to data tape, a process that is automated by software (and robots!). The video below provides an inside look at a machine very similar to the one that will be storing the projected 1.2 million gigabytes in MoMA’s digital collection.

Head over to MoMA’s Inside/Out blog to read the full post.