Hirshhorn, Tate Modern

What are art museums and galleries doing to protect the works of art on film in their collections?

Museums and art galleries are keepers of our cultural history. For centuries they have shown works of art in the way that artists intended them to be seen. Medium specificity is fundamental to the preservation and exhibition of art, in order that the public can continue to have the original experience and authentic unmediated encounter with the intent, form and medium of an artwork, dating back millennia.

In the 20th century, artists began using industrial materials, including film, en lieu of more traditional mediums, like oil, stone and ink. In the same way, it would be considered unthinkable to show a digital facsimile of an oil painting so it is to display a digital facsimile of a work of art made on film.

Museums understand this and although they might now use digital technology in some cases as a tool for conservation, their responsibility is to continue to show a work of art made on film as film. Therefore, there is great alarm in museum communities about what will be lost if the ability to make film prints disappears and anxiety that the discontinuation of film print stock will endanger the possibility of showing and conserving many original works of art currently in museum collections.

CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) have committed to debate these concerns with their members in the coming months and many prominent international art museums are backing this campaign to save film.

Image: views of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; Tate Modern, London