Conservation in Australia, Past Present and Future: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference, 19 – 21 October 2011 Canberra


Traditionally, the conservation field has been concerned with the material object. During the 20th century cultural institutions have accumulated still and moving photographic images, recorded sound and magnetic media along with other modern materials.

The need to conserve these media objects, manufactured primarily for what they can do, rather than what they are, has been challenging. The concerns have been to preserve the original often unstable medium, to maintain the associated retrieval equipment and most significantly, to use the most appropriate reproduction method for the content. Over the past few decades our profession has engaged with these conservation challenges with varying success. Strategies have focused on storage, physical conservation of the carrier and copying using commercial/broadcast solutions.

There is a fundamental difference between traditional cultural materials where the object is primary – and media that functions as an information carrier. The principal aim of conservation is to accurately and authentically reproduce and preserve the content of audiovisual and photographic records. In what ways can and does a conservator do this?

The digital world provides us with preservation opportunities, choices and dilemmas never before imaged. Digital copying and re-purposing of media allows wide ranging interpretations that may, or may not reflect the creators’ intentions. In the future, without the ability or need to refer to original photographic materials or sound recordings, contemporary fashion may dictate the way these records are experienced. What is the role of the conservator? What solutions satisfy the conservation requirements of the original record?

For a profession that has always looked at the window, this paper invites you to take in the view – to be part of the decision making process, to preserve that view for posterity.


2011 AICCM National Conference, Canberra
Paper author:
Peter Shaw