Interview with Sofie Ruysseveldt (Argos) and Björn Scherlippens (Mu.ZEE)

Argos, Brussels, June 22, 2012

Argos (Brussels) and Mu.ZEE (Ostend) are two important players in the Belgian contemporary arts field. As a centre for art and media, Argos manages an extensive and important collection of media art, including works by artists such as Hans Op de Beeck, Michel François, Anne-mie Van Kerckhoven, Peter Downsbrough, Johan Grimonprez, Aglaia Konrad, Sarah Vanagt, Ursula Biemann and Nicolas Provost. Mu.ZEE is an art museum near the Belgian North Sea coast. It manages a rich collection of Belgian art, ranging from 1850 to the present, which arose from cooperation between the province of West-Flanders and the City of Ostend. Highlights in the collection are the works by James Ensor, Léon Spilliaert and Constant Permeke, but also more recent works by, for example, Luc Tuymans, Panamarenko, Roger Raveel and Raoul De Keyser. By joining Digitising Contemporary Art (DCA), both institutions are taking part in a large-scale international digitisation project for the very first time.

Barbara Dierickx and Rony Vissers of PACKED vzw (Brussels), the centre of expertise in digital heritage that is in charge of coordinating DCA, spoke with Sofie Ruysseveldt (collection manager, Argos) and Björn Scherlippens (staff member for DCA, Mu.ZEE) about the project's progress in their institution.

1. Goals of DCA participation
2. Institutional changes
3. Digitisation execution
4. The online accessibility of digitised artworks
5. Support offered (1)
6. Project dissemination
7. Support offered (2)
8. Clearing intellectual property rights
9. Concluding remarks

1. Goals of DCA participation

PACKED: You both joined the DCA project after it had already started. Do you have any idea what your institutions originally hoped to achieve by taking part?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I only got involved in the DCA project after it had been running for a year. For Argos, DCA is a unique opportunity to use digitisation to preserve a great many of its artworks that are currently saved on old-fashioned analogue media, as well as an opportunity to collaborate with other institutions faced with the same problem. This exchange of knowledge and experience is valuable.

PACKED: Does the DCA project provide the solution to a genuine need at Mu.ZEE?

Björn Scherlippens: Absolutely. Like many other museums, we have something of a backlog in, for example, inventorying our collection and making it available online by means of an image bank. We see the DCA project as a chance to reduce our backlog and to integrate our work on this across as many museum departments as possible. Thanks to the DCA project, the communications department will have access to high-quality images that they can use for their own purposes. The conservation and management department will not only have access to high-quality images, but also to detailed descriptions of artworks. When something goes wrong with a work of art, it is important to know what state the work was in when it was acquired by the museum, how it looked, and what the situation was at any given time.

Argos’ audio-visual archive

Argos’ audio-visual archive. © Argos

PACKED: Your own emphasis is mainly on inventorying, documentation and conservation. The DCA project receives financial support from the European Commission in the framework of ‘digitisation for Europeana’. To what extent is making the artworks accessible both via your own website and via Europeana important?

Björn Scherlippens: Our starting point was a specific need: to clear our backlog. The DCA project is an excellent opportunity to achieve this, and it also gives us the opportunity to go a little further. It is a great way of making the contents of our collection more visible.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: The situation at Argos is the same. As soon as something exists in digital form, you can open it up to the public more easily. Furthermore, it is good for us to present Argos’s collection in other contexts and to enter into dialogue with other collections. Europeana links collections from all over Europe and this also creates new opportunities for cross-sector and interdisciplinary research.

Björn Scherlippens: As a public institution, you work for the community. It is important for the community to be able to see what has been acquired using public money and what then happens to new additions to the collection. The public needs to have easy access to the collection.

2. Institutional changes

PACKED: Have you noticed any changes in your organisation as a result of the project?

Björn Scherlippens: Definitely. There is now a greater focus on digitisation, including matters like copyright. Clearing rights is something we have always borne in mind, but never in a structured way. Previously, people would tackle the copyright situation as and when it became necessary. This meant that there were always islands of people working on it, but without pooling their expertise: now they do. A project like this can act as a catalyst for working on this sort of thing in a more structured way. Before that, things like this happened in a more ad-hoc manner.

PACKED: Do you think that the changes you have just mentioned will have a long-lasting effect? Will they continue beyond the thirty-month duration of the project?

Björn Scherlippens: Things like this are hard to predict, but I certainly have the impression that we have started something here. For example, we are treating the new 2012 collection acquisitions that are no longer on the list of artworks to be digitised for DCA in the same way as the artworks that are due to be digitised for the project. We are continuing to use the same inventorying procedure, as well as the same digitisation methods, and are using the DCA norms for this. I am confident that the working method that has been developed for DCA will continue to be used in the future.

PACKED: Are these changes filtering through at different levels in your institutions? Is there a wide cross-section of your staff involved in the DCA project?

Björn Scherlippens: We try to integrate the work we are doing for DCA into other museum tasks, such as exhibiting and conserving the collection. It is certainly the case that when we are digitising our more complex multi-media artworks, we liaise with our director and the head of conservation and management to see whether there is an opportunity to integrate these artworks into exhibitions.

PACKED: Is the reason for this that when this type of artwork is installed in an exhibition, it is easier for you to digitise it?

Björn Scherlippens: Definitely. One example is Oostende by Lili Dujourie. It is a 1974 work made up of nine slide projections. The original slides date from 1974 and have faded. Before we can digitise the work, it first needs to be restored and then installed. This means that the slides have to be duplicated and their colours corrected. Then, nine good quality slide projectors have to be bought with the appropriate lenses. DCA plays a role in getting a process like this underway, which is important, both in terms of preserving the work, and of making it accessible to the public in an exhibition again.

Colour correction of the slides from the work ‘Oostende’ (1974), in the presence of artist Lili Dujourie.

Colour correction of the slides from the work ‘Oostende’ (1974), in the presence of artist Lili Dujourie. © Mu.ZEE

PACKED: When we started DCA, we hoped that the project would also have a positive effect on the conservation and management of the collections being digitised.

Björn Scherlippens: It is great news that the digitisation process has meant that certain works can be exhibited again. Thanks to the project, we can invest more time in this and we have access to bigger budgets. Without an opportunity like DCA, it is sometimes difficult to exhibit particular works. Now, we have to install them in order to be able to photograph them. Digitisation and exhibition happen at the same time. DCA gives us the opportunity to tackle the installation of ‘difficult’ artworks and to show them to the outside world.

PACKED: Whilst Mu.ZEE is a recognised museum, Argos is chiefly an arts centre that also wants to present itself as a cultural heritage institution. Does DCA contribute to this?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: Yes, it certainly does. As we have to digitise a large number of artworks in a limited time, we are obliged to deal with it in a more structured way. This forces us to develop workflows that set out the various steps that have to be followed and the order in which these need to happen. Each colleague has a particular role and task to fulfil within these workflows. As project co-ordinator and collection administrator, for example, I work closely with our ICT manager on digitisation, aggregation and other technical matters. Our curator/communications manager is working on the detailed description of the artworks. We try to work together in a more structured way, for example by timetabling when we plan to work on particular artworks.

3. Digitisation execution

PACKED: Has our request to draw up a digitisation plan first contributed to this?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: Over the past few years, Argos had already been working on building up expertise in the digitisation of its audio-visual collection, but now everything is happening in a more structured way, using particular steps and workflows. Having to meet specific deadlines also helps. Every three weeks, we have a workgroup meeting about the collection, and DCA is a recurring agenda point. We usually report progress and discuss points requiring management decisions. This is a systematic way of ensuring that we make timely decisions and achieve good progress.

PACKED: Does this mean that DCA becomes truly embedded in the work of the whole institution?

Björn Scherlippens: At our fortnightly staff meetings DCA is always on the agenda. A progress report is presented to all the staff, who are also kept informed about what we will be working on next. This ensures that everyone is always kept up to date about the project.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: In these sorts of meetings, we discuss where help is needed, where there are problems, and which points need more attention.

PACKED: Have there been any difficulties during the first half of the project? If so, how did you approach them and what steps to you intend to take to avoid them in the second half?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I only joined the project after the first year. At the time, there were a number of things that were not working as they should. During the first few months that I worked on the DCA project, I tried to improve a number of things. We made a new version of the digitisation plan and created a definitive list of artworks to be digitised. What makes the digitisation process more difficult for Argos is that we no longer have all the original copies in our collection. We always start by contacting the artists to see if they still have the original copies of the artworks we want to digitise. Sometimes, they no longer have the originals, or they are now in the hands of a producer. If this is the case, then we need to go through a whole series of steps before we get hold of a master tape. Once we have the master tapes, we then need to compare them to the copies we have in our own archive. We verify which tape is the highest quality. This takes up a huge amount of time. We often find that the formats of the tapes are different. For example, it is possible that we have a MiniDV in our own archive, while the artist himself has a totally different format. In this case, we may have to outsource the digitisation of the tape, rather than doing it in-house. Things like this impair the project’s progress. We are always dependant on the artists. In some cases, we even need to contact other organisations because they hold the original of the tape, and in some cases they refuse to give permission for the tape to be digitised, even if the artist is in agreement.

Björn Scherlippens: Our greatest problem is that the project is running at the same time as the renovation of our storeroom. This has been totally emptied and is being renovated to meet the conservation requirements of a storeroom. This means that parts of our exhibition space are currently being used as temporary storage space. In the past, all we had to do was to go downstairs, check the location register and retrieve the work from the storeroom. At the moment, things are far less accessible. Some artworks are hard to reach. There is a particular problem with the larger sculptures, which are currently housed at the back of a temporary storeroom, in a place that is difficult to access. We have solved this problem by adjusting the order of digitisation, without departing too radically from the original digitisation plan. We have started with the paintings, which can be fetched from storage more easily. Thanks to the space created, the larger sculptures can be brought forward. These are now being digitised step by step in batches of twenty.

Different formats of works that are being digitised in DCA.

Different formats of works that are being digitised in DCA. © Argos

PACKED: Is this a problem that you’ll also have to bear in mind for the second part of the project?

Björn Scherlippens: I estimate that our storeroom will only be ready in early January 2013, and we have incorporated this into our planning. We are trying to make progress using strategies like “this work is now being taken out, which means that that work can be brought forward, so that a third work can be put back in.” It is still a problem because it is so inconvenient, but having said that, at least we have found a way of dealing with it.

PACKED: You are both outsourcing the digitisation. What has your experience of this been?

Björn Scherlippens: Mu.ZEE is employing a photographer for this purpose. We followed the standard procedure before assigning the task. For example, we asked for the required three quotes. About three weeks ago, we received the first high-resolution photos and I am extremely pleased with the result. They are of an exceptionally high quality. As project manager, you always ask to see examples of images in advance, but you are always a little anxious about what the end result will be. We will be outsourcing all our digitisation.

PACKED: Is Argos also outsourcing all the digitisation?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: We are able to digitise certain formats internally, such as DVCAM and MiniDV. In these cases, we simply keep the DV codec. For other formats such as U-matic, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, DVCPRO, Video8, Digital8 and Hi8 we are obliged to outsource. We encounter quite a lot of different formats. We have been working with some subcontractors for years and are very happy with the results. Within the DCA project framework, we have also digitised a number of Super 8 and 16mm films. Argos has only had very limited experience of these. For these formats, we asked for quotes, compared them, asked for references, etc. As a result of this process, we finally chose a laboratory. We recently used them for some colour grading work, and both the artist and ourselves are very pleased with the collaboration. This is a laboratory that we would be happy to use again in the future. Thus the DGA project has resulted in the creation of a useful new working relationship.

PACKED: Now that we are talking about outsourcing, is a model for work specifications something that would interest you?

Björn Scherlippens: On the one hand, guidance in any form is always welcome, but on the other hand, you should avoid overdoing the amount of information you make available. If this gets out of balance, project partners risk no longer being able to see the wood for the trees.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: This sort of document does not need to be aimed exclusively at DCA partners, but could also be used by others. eDAVID has developed something similar for scanning documents. It is also important to know that we can take legal steps when something goes wrong with a subcontractor, for example when the results of the digitisation don’t come up to the agreed standard. How do you solve these sorts of situations? What can we demand if things go wrong?

PACKED: Have you already had experience of things going wrong?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: No. We haven’t yet had any real problems, but I have heard of others having them. We have been working with the same laboratories for years; we know them and are happy with their results. Because it is always possible for something to go wrong, we check all the documents we receive from the laboratories. It sometimes happens that an artwork has been digitised in the wrong way. In that case, we just send everything back and ask for the work to be redone.

Björn Scherlippens: In our case, the subcontractor is a photographer. We have looked at all the images. There were two photos with blurred corners, and we simply asked for these to be re-shot. It is to our advantage that the photographer only lives a few streets away from the museum. This is a happy coincidence. If he had had to travel from Brussels, for example, the reshooting would undoubtedly have been more complicated.

PACKED: Have you found that your knowledge of digitisation has increased as a result of working on the DCA project? Or is improving your knowledge not really a priority for you?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: As the co-ordinator of the DCA project at Argos, I try to be as closely involved as possible, to follow up all the steps we are taking in detail and to acquire new expertise along the way. If I have questions on particular topics, I try to find an answer to them so that I can steer the project knowledgeably.

Photographer Steven Decroos and Sara Huycke during the preparation of photographing the work ‘Perspectieven I’ (Philippe Van Snick, 2004).

Photographer Steven Decroos and Sara Huycke during the preparation of photographing the work ‘Perspectieven I’ (Philippe Van Snick, 2004). © Mu.ZEE

PACKED: What do you think of the digitisation plan and the linked segmentation of the digitisation process?

Björn Scherlippens: I am grateful to the digitisation plan as a tool because it has a clearly defined structure. DCA is a project spread over thirty months, and it is good to be able to divide up the work into different segments, each with its own deadline. The plan is like a series of cogs. Although it is broadly possible to determine its course yourself, its implementation ensures that you make progress, and that you really notice the progress you make.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I also like the way it is divided into segments. This makes us put more pressure on ourselves. The segmentation also helps internally, as it makes the team understand that procrastination is impossible. Deadlines sometimes appear to be deceptively far away, but due to the nature of the work, we actually have to keep up a strong momentum. The digitisation plan helps with this.

PACKED: Have you had to make many adjustments?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: When I started at Argos, there was already a first digitisation plan. This plan was divided up based on the format of the media. Bearing our working methods in mind, the plan was unrealistic. Because I think it’s important to have a realistic plan, I have formulated a new digitisation plan that is segmented on the basis of numbers. It is impossible for me to base our plans on formats, as these are always subject to change. Our digitisation plan now determines how many artworks we need to digitise, with clear deadlines. Internal and external digitisation are happening simultaneously. Now it is at least a usable instrument against which we can measure our achievements.

4. The online accessibility of digitised artworks

PACKED: A central part of the second half of the project is making the artworks you have digitised accessible. Are you ready for this?

Björn Scherlippens: During the DCA Berlin workshop on the LIDO digital exchange format, I initially found it all a bit strange. Since then, I have spent some time looking at LIDO with my colleague Sara, and we have now got to grips with it. It think that technical problems are unavoidable, but I do not expect them to be insurmountable.

PACKED: How are you progressing with the preparations for putting the artworks on your own website? Is this something you feel confident about?

Björn Scherlippens: We have liaised with our website designers about this a number of times. Our website will not be directly integrated into our Adlib collection administration system, but there is the possibility of exporting metadata from Adlib to the website. Bearing in mind that we are already exporting to LIDO using the MINT tool for the mapping, this should not present any major difficulties for us.

PACKED: At Argos, is the website being built directly onto the databank?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: At the moment, we are developing a new databank and metadata model, but this will not be ready before the end of the DCA project. We will therefore make the digital images accessible using our current system. In future, we intend to use the EN 15907 standard for the description of audio-visual works. This European standard has recently been developed for film and video productions in heritage organisations, based on FRBR principles. It sets out a methodology for the description of content and technical characteristics. The metadata model is thus ideal for productions with several archived copies. This means that we will need to bear in mind that if any changes are made to our databank in the future, they will also have to be technically compatible with GAMA, our aggregator.

5. Support offered (1)

PACKED: We have already spoken about a number of different tools: the digitisation plan, the MINT tool for mapping to LIDO and so on, are there further tools with which you would like to be provided through the DCA project or PACKED as a centre of expertise for digital heritage?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I think that enough information is provided with each DCA project work package. The workshops and MyBBT internal communications platform are also helpful. They give us the opportunity to ask questions.

PACKED: Is the MyBBT internal communication platform something you frequently use?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I use the communication platform to consult working documents that the work-package managers have made available.

PACKED: Do you also use the deliverables that were written within the DCA project framework?

Björn Scherlippens: I certainly do. They really are used, for example in relation to repro photography. Sara and I do not have much practical technical experience. Thanks to the deliverables, we can access the information that enables us to ask the photographer the right questions. The deliverables are useful, but would benefit from being livened up a little… The content is extremely dull.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I think that one of the problems is that we are working with a number of different organisations that are all at different stages of development. For example, some organisations already have a good database and website, whilst others have yet to achieve this. I imagine it must be difficult for the project leader and work package leaders to take these different levels into account. Furthermore, we are dealing with the digitisation of modern art. This is a diverse area with widely differing types of artwork: paintings, sculptures, videos etc. These different types of artworks demand a different digitisation approach and can result in the use of different standards and file formats. There is no doubt that it is not always easy to bear all these different factors in mind, as well as the DCA partners’ different levels.

Björn Scherlippens: You will never really be able to work exactly as the users require it. The information available is perfectly clear, but consulting it does take some effort.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: For organisations that are still in their infancy in some areas, it would undoubtedly be better to organise some element of personal guidance. A helpdesk that they could contact with specific questions or problems could be useful.

Preparation of photographing the work ‘Theoretical Length’ (Koenraad Dedobbeleer, 2011).

Preparation of photographing the work ‘Theoretical Length’ (Koenraad Dedobbeleer, 2011). © Mu.ZEE

PACKED: For organisations that are still in their infancy in some areas, it would undoubtedly be better to organise some element of personal guidance. A helpdesk that they could contact with specific questions or problems could be useful.

Björn Scherlippens: Definitely.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: Argos has the advantage of having already been working on digitisation for some time. We do not often need really specific technical support. We are currently in contact with GAMA for the technical preparation of the aggregation and that is going very smoothly.

Björn Scherlippens: Up to now, every question we have asked has been answered very precisely. We are currently studying LIDO. Soon we’ll be approaching Sam Coppens and Erik Mannens with any questions we may have.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: The list of FAQs about metadata was also interesting to read.

6. Project dissemination

PACKED: Does digitisation work also include a public aspect? Some partners have integrated the digitisation into their public space.

Björn Scherlippens: At the moment, we are digitising behind closed doors using repro photography. Because we have a stockroom problem, our total exhibition space is limited. A number of exhibition spaces are currently being used as storerooms. If we were to use other exhibition spaces for digitisation, then there would be very little space remaining to the public to view artworks. Because digitisation is not really a way of exhibiting things, we are carrying out the work behind closed doors. Interaction with the public only occurred in one specific case. The work demanded it. This was for 1000 Beats, a 2008 work by Pieterjan Ginckels that was purchased in 2011. The purchase itself consisted of some fifteen record players, amplifiers, loudspeakers, mixing panels and some three hundred albums, but every time the work is installed, museum supporters are asked to lend us sound equipment for the duration of the exhibition. It was therefore impossible to digitise the work without calling upon the friends of the museum. We issued a request on the radio and in the printed press, which got a good response. Naturally we also exhibited the work to the public afterwards. It would have been crazy to make all this effort in order simply to install the work behind closed doors for digitisation. But this is a specific case. The public aspect came about because of the work itself. By the way, we didn’t only photograph the work, but also the setting-up process.

Set-up of the work ‘1000 Beats’ in Mu.ZEE in 2012 (Pieterjan Ginckels, 2008). Photo: Steven Decroos.

Set-up of the work ‘1000 Beats’ in Mu.ZEE in 2012 (Pieterjan Ginckels, 2008). Photo: Steven Decroos. © Mu.ZEE

PACKED: Argos uses its own magazine to communicate news of the DCA project.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: It is difficult for us to let people into the studio during the digitisation process. One thing that I do regularly is to mention DCA during student guided tours, and touch on the difficulties of the archiving and conservation of video and film. With regard to the wider public, we decided that it would be a good idea to include an article about DCA in Argos Mag. In the article, we focus on three artworks that have been digitised during the DCA project. The idea is to publish one or two more articles this year about the digitisation of a number of other artworks. This gives us the opportunity to emphasise that Argos is engaged in the archiving and conservation of its collection.

PACKED: Are we reaching a wide group of interested parties with the DCA project?

Björn Scherlippens: I think that it is a bit too early for that. Up to now, I have never really been asked about it. I assume that this will change when the results become visible and we open up to the outside world the work done in the framework of the DCA project.

PACKED: Do you have any further suggestions to improve awareness of the DCA project?

Björn Scherlippens: We plan to publish a progress report about the project on our website: where we are and what still needs to happen. We made an announcement when we first joined the project, so it would seem logical for us to follow this up. We want to share this information with the public.

PACKED: Artworks are being digitised in order to safeguard them for the future, for example analogue videos. Does this open up new opportunities?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: In order to publicise the results of DCA, we are considering showing a number of digitised videos in our ‘Black Box’ space at the end of the project. Grouping the videos together for an exhibition is more difficult, because the artworks are not thematically linked.

The Argos-studio.

The Argos-studio. © Argos

7. Support offered (2)

PACKED: As well as technical support, project managers also offer more administrative support. Are you satisfied with this?

Björn Scherlippens: I am very satisfied with it. The project managers are in charge of overseeing the administrative data that we need to provide. They immediately tell us what to watch out for, what is unsatisfactory… Sometimes it’s just about small details, but their input really helps us to make progress. I think it would be difficult to offer any more support without your literally taking over the work from us.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: PACKED has also provided us with the necessary support for the preparation of the interim financial report for the European Commission. We could hardly expect more than this.

PACKED: Do you have to do the financial reporting yourselves or are you able to work with your institution’s financial or accounts department.

Björn Scherlippens: We do the reporting ourselves, but in close collaboration with our finance department.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: In our case, our accounts department takes care of the financial reporting for the project.

PACKED: Mu.ZEE is in an unusual position, because the European Commission subsidy is paid in five instalments, linked to the achievement of specific results. Does this make your work more difficult?

Björn Scherlippens: Not really. It just means some extra administrative work. We have never had a cash flow problem. We always receive our financing on time. We have adapted to the situation. The instalments are large enough not to cause problems, especially as we can also count on matched funding from the Flemish government via PACKED.

Photographer Steven Decroos taking pictures of works by Jan Carsau.

Photographer Steven Decroos taking pictures of works by Jan Carsau. © Mu.ZEE

PACKED: We have just received a positive interim evaluation of the DCA project by the European Commission. Are you also pleased with your own progress?

Björn Scherlippens: Yes. We are on time, in terms of distribution of staff effort as well as finances.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: We are also on time. Although the project runs until June 2013, we have made our internal deadline much earlier, which gives us a margin to cope with things going wrong.

8. Clearing intellectual property rights

PACKED: What could potentially still go wrong?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: It is possible that we won’t manage to obtain the copyright to particular artworks, that we will not be able to digitise some of the works on our list and that we will therefore have to seek out extra content. This is something that could happen. We certainly need to take this into account.

PACKED: When you obtain copyright now, are you doing this just for use on Europeana and on your own website, or also at the same time for a wide range of possible future uses?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: We are doing it for a wide range of uses. As we are in contact with the artist anyway, we try to take the opportunity to obtain not only the copyright of the artworks we are digitising as part of DCA, but also of all their artworks in our collection. So we try to obtain as much copyright as possible in one go.

Björn Scherlippens: Our approach is the same, for all the artworks in the collection and all artworks that we have on long-term loan. We try to have as wide-ranging a discussion as possible with the copyright holders and simultaneously obtain the copyright for book publications, for our website, for Europeana and in some cases to pass on to third parties in the case of our lending out the work.

PACKED: Have you been able to obtain copyright direct from the artists, or have you had to negotiate with collective rights management organisations?

Björn Scherlippens: So far, we have not needed to negotiate with collective rights management organisations, but we know that we will soon need to do this. And to be honest, we are not looking forward to it at all.

PACKED: Is obtaining copyright through such organisations likely to cause a problem?

Björn Scherlippens: It certainly is, especially from a financial point of view, because it is not possible to use funds from the project budget to pay for licensing fees.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: One thing that can sometimes cause a problem for us is when we contact an artist whose artworks have already been digitised as part of another project, or at the artist’s own expense. There is then no need to repeat the digitisation work. If we obtain the digital files from the artist, we have to remove the titles from our DCA list, as no further digitisation is required. We then need to look for extra content to replace this. Even when the copyright holders are prepared to transfer copyright, we can still lose artworks from our DCA list.

PACKED: Does this mean that extra artworks will be added?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: Yes. It has often been the case that when we contacted artists in the framework of DCA, they also offered us other artworks. Thus, DCA has resulted in a large influx of other artworks, often recent born digital artworks. These do not necessarily become a part of the DCA project.

PACKED: You have both been working with subcontractors. Has Mu.ZEE also arranged for the photographer to waive his copyright?

Björn Scherlippens: We incorporated this into our agreement. The waiving of copyright was a condition of the quote request. It is legally impossible for the photographer to waive his rights, but he is able to release them.

Photographer Steven Decroos taking pictures of works by Jan Carsau.

Photographer Steven Decroos taking pictures of works by Jan Carsau. © Mu.ZEE

9. Concluding remarks

PACKED: Other than the digitisation of your artworks, do you see any other effects on your organisation of the participation in a project like DCA?

Björn Scherlippens: I think that for us, the main result of participating in a project like DCA is that we get more organised internally. Afterwards, you are at least in a position to present your collection to the world, because among other things copyright issues have been resolved. This is probably the case for many institutions. Taking part in the network is also important, although I do question whether the contacts made so far are strong enough to set up long-lasting collaboration. It is a bit like being in the same class. Afterwards, everyone goes their own way. I don’t have the impression that anyone is thinking about how we can work together on new projects.

PACKED: Would this be important to you?

Björn Scherlippens: It could certainly be relevant. Perhaps it would be a good idea to suggest at one of the DCA consortium’s next plenary sessions. You should hold a roundtable discussion on it, because this is a subject that requires everyone’s input.

PACKED: Would you be interested in thinking about it?

Sofie Ruysseveldt: Certainly.

Björn Scherlippens: I think that at the moment, every partner would want to participate if you decided to start up a project like DCA in a different field, and it would achieve equally impressive results.

PACKED: Imagine for a moment that you were starting the DCA project afresh. What would you do differently?

Björn Scherlippens: I am a newcomer in an existing organisation. In this sort of situation, you should always feel your way at first, and take time to acclimatise. This means that it is difficult to dictate what should happen and how in the first few weeks. What you do is to try and guide the existing process. Even though the working process had hardly begun when I started at Mu.ZEE, I had the impression that the project was already firmly anchored. The structure for the DCA work was already in place. I am pleased with the situation when I joined.

Sofie Ruysseveldt: I am also pleased with the way that everything is now running. One thing I would change if I had been involved in the project from the beginning, would be to pay closer attention to specifying which artworks are to be digitised. This is because we have experienced problems with the list of artworks to be digitised and have had to replace some titles. A good selection is very important.

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