With more than 600 works by Swiss and international artists, the Kunsthaus Zürich holds one of the largest and most important collections of video art in the country. Pioneers from the medium’s earliest days at the start of the 1970s such as John Baldessari, Nam June Paik, Vito Acconci, Valie Export and Bruce Nauman are one of its two focal points; the other is the German video scene of the 1980s, with artists such as Ulrike Rosenbach, Klaus vom Bruch and Marcel Odenbach. Thanks to regular acquisitions of new works, young contemporary artists are also well represented.

The specific technology of the video medium presents constantly changing challenges for museums. In the early 2000s, for example, it was thought that the digital Betacam format would be the archiving solution of the future. However, this idea was quickly rendered obsolete by the rapid pace of technological change. Today, the strategy is to move to file-based archiving.

Material documentation
Deformed tape of U-matic S cassette
Cassette case and U-matic S video cassette
Video Still from Marina Abramovic & Ulay, A performance anthology 1975-1980. Condition before treatment
Condition after treatment

Background and approach

All the original data storage media are first documented in pictures and in writing and machine-cleaned at the Atelier für Videokonservierung video conservation workshop in Bern. Then they are imported into the video editing program Final Cut and digitized. Various TBCs (time base correctors) and drop-out compensation are incorporated. The cleaning and digitization lead to a marked stabilization of the signal and allows faults to be removed.

« Our ongoing work on the video collection allows us to progressively increase our expertise in the conservation of media art. » — Kerstin Mürer, Head of Restoration and Conservation

All the digitized tapes are currently still being stored by the Atelier für Videokonservierung. From spring 2019 the Kunsthaus will have its own archive server, allowing them to be held on site. In the long term, the aim is to make the collection accessible to researchers and other interested parties.

Quality control

Once treatment is complete, the videos are jointly inspected and issues of technology, condition and history that have arisen due to the work or tape’s particular characteristics are discussed. As the project progresses and new special cases come up, existing knowledge is constantly having to be reassessed and new solutions found.

Project staff: Mirjam Varadinis / Kerstin Mürer
Project period: 2014 to 2019

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