Material Immaterial: Photographs in the 21st Century

September 23 -25, 2019 at Yale University, New Haven, CT
A Collaborative Workshop in Photograph Conservation

Why print a photograph in 2019?

We are witnessing the historic transformation of photography from tangible objects—prints, plates, and negatives—to code: intangible bits, bytes, and pixels. As the tether between visual culture and the material world is recalibrated every day, a new form of literacy is required to draw meaning from physical media and its obsolescence. At the very moment when characterization and interpretation of the printed photograph is rapidly gaining ground, the momentum toward dematerialization raises the issue of the long-term relevance and sustainability of photography as a material fact. Does the physical photograph still matter today—as a source for teaching, learning, and scholarship—and will it matter into the future?

This three-day program is organized by Paul Messier, Director of the Lens Media Lab at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage; Monica Bravo, Assistant Professor of History and Theory of Photographic Media at California College of the Arts; and colleagues at Yale University with the support and guidance of the FAIC Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation advisory committee. The program and elective seminars will be geared for educators, students, curators, photographers and, particularly, for conservators whose core value proposition is most directly tied to the physical photograph. Insights from conservators, scholars, makers, and the art market will address the premise that physical photography is a closed set. The optional final day of the workshop will model interdisciplinary inquiry and seek to incubate collaborations focused on photography as a medium both material and immaterial.  New tools will be examined for characterizing and contextualizing the photograph both as object and disembodied image.

Details and registration information

Scholarships are available to support participation in this program.

June 10–14, 2019 at The Museum of Modern Art, NY

Does your institution have a collection of avant-garde, experimental, or artists' films? Are you uncertain where to get started in caring for such a collection? This five-day hands-on workshop will focus on the stewardship of both analog and digital artists' films within collecting institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, and distributors. Participants will gain the knowledge and tools necessary to properly acquire, store, migrate, exhibit, and generally maintain these films, which have unique requirements for their care and display.

The workshop will include expert-led sessions on the following topics:

  • Technical history of filmmaking and film formats, with a focus on experimental and avant-garde artists' practices

  • Film acquisition workflows

  • Strategies for collection surveys, registration, and long-term storage

  • Basics of condition assessment

  • Migration strategies related to exhibition and preservation

  • Exhibition design, planning, and installation for both gallery and theater display

  • Documentation methods and strategies

  • Long-term care and advocacy for film collections


Participants will leave with the knowledge and tools to design and execute action plans at their institutions to accomplish long-term preservation goals.

Requirements for Application: Attendance is limited to a small cohort of no more than sixteen participants. This workshop is open to staff from museums, archives, libraries, distributors, and others who care for film collections that include artists' films. Applicants should be permanent members of staff at their institution (full- or part-time). Participants are expected to attend all five days. There is no registration fee for this workshop. Travel and lodging will be reimbursed based on available funds and the budgets submitted. English will be the language of instruction.

How to Apply: Please provide 1) a letter of interest (1,000 words maximum); 2) a CV; and 3) a budget of the anticipated cost of attendance, in U.S. dollars. Additionally, applicants must complete the online Collection Data Form. Applications that do not meet all requested requirements will not be considered.

The letter of interest must include: 1) Why participation in this workshop is important to the film collection at the applicant's institution; 2) a brief history of the film collection and key institutional preservation efforts to date; 3) the applicant's work with the film collection to date; 4) how this workshop directly applies to the applicant's day-to-day work; and 5) the applicant's prior experience with the topic, or lack thereof, as well as attendance at any relevant conferences or workshops on related topics. (This is to aid curriculum development-no prior experience with the topic is required.)

Applications should be submitted to no later than midnight EST on Thursday, January 31, 2019, with notifications expected by the middle of March 2019. For more information, please visit  

This workshop is part of The Museum of Modern Art's Media Conservation Initiative, generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Media Conservation Initiative seeks to advance new strategies for the field of time-based media art preservation and restoration.

Amy Brost
Assistant Media Conservator
Museum of Modern Art