Interpreting the past has long been the province of historians, but reinterpreting it has recently become a concern of conservators. This most powerful, and most controversial, of preservation strategies can demand techniques not found in the traditional conservation lab, from 3d scanning to DNA computing. Several international conferences from Mexico City to Amsterdam recently spotlighted Still Water’s ongoing research into reinterpretation as a means of prolonging or resuscitating the past.
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At the 2016 ESTIA conference, Still Water co-director and New Media professor Joline Blais used her keynote address to acknowledge a number of the most important practitioners who have contributed to her creative projects over the past decade.
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In 1994 artist Douglas Davis hit upon a surefire way to write a preposterously long sentence. He and his collaborators created a page on what was then a fledgling World Wide Web through which anyone could add words and phrases onto a growing string of HTML. Two decades later, it fell to digital conservator Ben Fino-Radin to restore this landmark of Internet art. He described the process–along with his work to recover the earliest Macintosh icons and manage digital collections at the Museum of Modern Art–in a teleconference this spring with students of the University of Maine’s Digital Curation program.
New Media student projects are more than term papers to be chucked when the semester’s over. Many enjoy a renewed life after graduation, as demonstrated by recent TV and news articles on outdoor-oriented ventures from the 2015 capstone course taught by Still Water Co-Director Joline Blais. From drone classes for high school students to mobile apps to help forestry workers, these capstones have expanded outside of the classroom and into the nearby woods and skies overhead.
A Still Water project by Jon Ippolito aimed at linking thematically similar academic essays across the Web has been awarded an initial grant of $10,000 by the Thoma Foundation. Founding philanthropists Carl and Marilynn Thoma also hosted a presentation at New York’s School of Visual Arts last December to honor the inaugural recipients of the Digital Arts Writing prize, independent writer Joanne McNeil and Ippolito, who co-directs UMaine’s Still Water lab.
In an article on the growing cohousing movement, National Geographic magazine interviewed Still Water Co-Director Joline Blais about her research on these “living laboratories for sustainability.” Blais spoke to the sharing economy at the heart of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, an intentional community on the coast of Maine founded by people seeking a greater connection with the environment and each other.
In a world where a search box is usually the only way to enter an online archive, John Bell builds wrecking balls that tear down the walls between institutional silos. His latest project, a collaboration with Dartmouth and UMaine’s VEMI lab, has won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to help scholars access and annotate historical film and television from archives across the globe.