The Fixity of Transformation

The “Transforming” series are four digital paintings, looping every 2-3 hours, meant to reward the viewer for sustained engagement through subtly changing over the course of the work. To preserve the series, I decided to focus on the conversation around the works and to document the process of their creation as detailed in greater length here and here. In short, the pieces themselves are fairly well taken care of but the supporting documentation gets less attention and will still be useful in the future.


The end result is an Archival Information Package (AIP) divided into the larger sections of Web Articles, Audio and Video, and Viewer Reaction. Each larger section has a text file titled the same as the folder heading but appended with  “_description” describing the content of the folder.

Web Articles

One part of documenting the discourse about these works is through saving the media coverage. Using links available on the creator’s websites and using internet searches, I assembled a list of articles on the internet that covered the works in exhibitions, provided commentary, interviewed the authors, or documented the creation of the works.

After downloading a copy of the HTML for an access copy, I also searched the URL in the Wayback Machine and used the “Save Page Now” option to ensure there was also a preservation copy somewhere on the IA servers. In all, I saved the HTML and related files from 48 articles, of which 16 were not yet saved in the Internet Archive.

Audio and Video

The next section of the AIP contains 21 videos (and some audio) describing artistic themes in the works, how the works were made, visual effects breakdowns, and short excerpts of most of the final products. About half of these files I could simply “save as” from the Motion Picture Company website after inspecting the page source.

The other half of the videos were either on sites like YouTube or Vimeo or were streaming Flash video. I used simple available tools to download these videos, ClipGrab for videos on hosting sites and the “Flash Video Downloader” web extension for the flash videos. There were also two files from an audio tour at a museum that I downloaded as well. While I had pie in the sky ideas about using open source software and command line tools, there just wasn’t enough time to dig deep in the documentation and figure them out.


Once downloaded as MPEG4 files in their highest picture quality, I organized the videos by work or put them in a separate category if it covered multiple works.  I used MediaInfo to generate technical metadata sidecar files for the audio and video, which will be useful to both scholars looking to do research now and in case the video files get corrupted in the future. I exported it as PBCore 2.0 as it was a recommended schema in the FADGI report on preserving born digital video.

Viewer Reaction

In this section of the AIP, I gathered viewer’s reactions not told through articles. I divided the section into  interviews and comments and social media. While I did not end up having the time to do the interviews I planned this is where they would go.

I did save an extensive comment section  through screenshots from one of the web articles that wasn’t saving correctly with the Wayback Machine. I also saved a Youtube video of someone erasing the belly button of the woman in “Transforming Nude Painting.” They claimed that a goddess as depicted in the painting would not have one (in fact this was only one video of many more on this theme in other paintings). The internet is weird…

Final Product


I used the Data Accessioner tool to generate full collection technical and preservation metadata and checksums for each digital object in an xml file. This ensures the ability to check fixity and determine if anything changes in the files in the future. It also provides an easy way to browse the collection in an abstract way as one document.

Finally, I zipped up the AIP and uploaded it to the Internet Archive. You can download it here.

5 Replies to “The Fixity of Transformation”

    1. This is great Joe! It turned out well – you really captured all sides of the project. And you’re right Amy – the time factor is probably one of several lessons learned for our ending post!

      1. Thanks Kerry! Yes, I agree with you both that limited time was definitely a real-world part of this. I guess we all found out what happens when digital preservation stops being polite and starts getting real.

  1. This is a really interesting project and i think you did a good job capturing all sides of the subject. Making sure you have different views and opinions of a work is an important aspect of archiving that many either fail to do or do not understand. This is particularly the case with non archivists and historians who tend to focus solely on their particular view point or belief. It can be a real task getting different view points for projects due to people resisting or simply not caring because they do not see its importance. Figuring out how to convince people to support multiple views and its necessity is one of the best skills to pick up as an archivist or historian.

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