ArtBase in 2020

A New Beginning Supported by the NEH

On Monday, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced a new grant award to Rhizome, supporting an overhaul and re-implementation of ArtBase, our archive of 2,000+ born-digital artworks.

Founded in 1999 and governed by a novel open-accession policy until 2007, ArtBase represents our long-standing commitment to digital preservation in the face of rapidly changing social and technological environments.

In the coming months, ArtBase will be officially moving to Linked Open Data, based on the Wikibase platform. During this process, Rhizome’s data about artists and artworks will become increasingly expressive and interoperable with other databases. In a parallel effort, image materials and descriptions will be updated.

Planning and development for the new ArtBase has been ongoing since 2015, with multi-faceted preservation work, research, and software development activities including:

  • Conifer: with the now newly distinct, our platform to easily create archival copies of and re-perform complex websites; 
  • Wikibase: together with Wikimedia Germany and multiple other partners, contributions to help a growing community of cultural institutions express their needs in the linked open data space and to lay out a development plan for required features;
  • Emulation as a Service: together with OpenSLX, contributions to their framework for cloud-based emulation accessible via browser;
  • Net Art Anthology: our curatorial and presentation testing ground, exploring best practices for making historic works available at scale; and
  • ArtBase Design Research: the work of of Lozana Rossenova, PhD researcher at London South Bank University, informing ArtBase's next stage.

Above all we have endeavored to define and advocate for sustainable, scalable preservation of born-digital art based on reproducible performance and continuous access for the general public and researchers alike. This approach will further guide our next steps, and ensure we can deliver current and future ArtBase artworks with the highest fidelity possible. The new ArtBase will better serve general audiences looking to discover born-digital art history, and scholars and students needing accurate and robust access to artifacts. 

For now, we are grateful to the NEH for supporting this next stage in ArtBase's evolution. 

Image above: An early prototype of linked open data for ArtBase.