Interactive Archival of Art and Science

Short Form


Growing concerns of media preservation mean a surge of new digital libraries. However, digital preservation is more than just photos and video; it's also interactive software: art creating new art. We will explore the problem of preserving software; past, present, and future; and why it is hard.


Over the years, computation has substantially increased our creativity and opportunity. However, there’s also a danger in that software becomes difficult to run over time. Word documents become difficult to open, video games on specialized hardware become difficult to play, a researcher’s simulator of protein synthesis becomes difficult to find— these represent a loss of perspective and culture, an inability to revisit the past, and a lack of scientific accountability.

In response, librarians have created a collection of digital libraries that archive images, video, and even the most vibrant of GeoCities websites. Yet, we have media that is interactive and real-time and tools that can create new content at any point. Scientists have a dire need for accountability in research as experiments become harder to replicate. How do we make archives and libraries that can handle the preservation of code while allowing us to — 100 years from now — build, run, and archive anything new we create with that code? Where are our museums of interactive art?

To answer that, we will take a look at the libraries and archives of the hypothetical, ones that exist now, and those in development. Focusing on the motivations and technology behind them, we will look at what they could do better and how. You will leave with an appreciation for the concept of provenance and how librarians can teach us the importance of systems that can trace an object back to the code that generated it. Finally, a look at the state-of-the-art interactive archives in development centered around using various levels of virtualization to preserve interactive art, games, and scientific experimentation culminating with a demonstration of these new interactive archive systems, how they work, and what the future looks like.


pittsburgh, video games, dev, preservation, libraries, digital libraries, virtualization, Docker, archival

Speaking experience

PghTechFest, "Social Computation and the Freedom to Compute", unrecorded, slides:

Culture Studies Assocation, "XOmB+Djehuty: Platform for Code Remix", unrecorded, slides:

CSA, "How Librarians Could Have Designed Ruby", unrecorded. no slides.

Various lightning talks in industry and academic conferences.

Have several years experience as a university teacher and I'm hoping that humbling experience counts!

Have not given this talk before, but have submitted it elsewhere to conferences held after this one.


  • Wilkie skull

    wil kie

    University of Pittsburgh


    I believe code is art; care about how code and culture intersect; code should be equally available to all. Let’s love whomever we wish.

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