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Digital Art as Cultural Heritage?

There is a multitude of cultural groups around the world, and each group struggles to preserve its unique heritage and cultural creations as history proceeds. Many of these cultures have embraced new technologies, both as functional tools and as artistic media. How should digital creations be preserved, especially as the underlying technologies become obsolete?

Digital technologies are progressing so quickly that important works along the way are being lost or are becoming impossible to read. “The threat is very real that, unless we do something, we will have a ‘lost generation’ in terms of our cultural heritage,” Dr David Anderson told the Guardian.

Do we want to protect digital art as part of our cultural heritage? As one writer at Wired points out, “the notion that anything called “digital” belongs to a nation-state is also in grave danger.”

However, UNESCO’s 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage states that, “parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.” Cultural heritage was therein defined to include monuments and natural sites, and in 2003 a new Convention expanded the definition to include intangibles. Still, neither Convention accounts for digital culture, on a national or international level.

A new class of “digital preservationists” has formed in Britain, and a series of symposia will be held in June at King’s College London and at Cambridge University. On May 9, Anglia Ruskin University will open a gallery that will exhibit art in digital format only.

Read more at the Guardian