Preserving the Digital Presence of New York City Galleries

Screenshot of Arlene Shechet "Skirts" exhibit at Pace Gallery, captured by NYARC May 2020These days many galleries are finding it necessary to pivot to an online-only presence, with viewing rooms and online exhibitions spotlighting their current offerings. As gallerists are presenting the works of artists primarily in digital formats, it is critical to art-historical documentation that art research institutions continue their efforts to preserve these ephemeral web-based resources for the future.

Open access to web archives is increasingly important given this ever-growing shift to digital content, a crucial concern throughout the art world especially in the past few months. The Frick Art Reference Library, as a founding member of the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC)—which consists of the libraries and archives of The Frick Collection, the Brooklyn Museum, and The Museum of Modern Art—has been engaged in building web archive collections for nearly a decade. Web archiving utilizes a web crawler to collect and capture digital content and preserve it in an archival format called a WARC file. The practice has gradually become a significant collection-building activity for art research libraries, integral to their missions to document art history and cultural heritage through the present day.

Screenshot of the landing page of NYARC's Web archiving program

The NYARC Web Archive collections currently contain more than 4,000 art-related websites and comprise nearly 7 terabytes of data. The archives are made up of ten collections. Six are thematic in nature, focusing on the following subjects: art resources, artists' websites, auction houses, catalogues raisonnés, New York City galleries and art dealers, and websites documenting the restitution of lost and looted art. Four collections are devoted to the websites for the three member institutions of NYARC.

The New York City Galleries web archive collection is the largest of the NYARC collections. Containing more than 2.5 terabytes of archived websites, it represents approximately 230 galleries of various sizes and artistic scopes. The majority of the websites included in this collection are archived every month in order to capture updates to exhibition schedules and gallery publications and to document artist representation in the New York gallery scene. Recent additions to the collection include the Brooklyn-based gallery Koenig & Clinton, which closed in early 2020, and online exhibitions presented by 47 Canal and Pace Gallery. Galleries that have closed in recent months and years are archived and included in the collection for the purpose of preserving the rich web-based resources that they produced when in operation.

To learn more about NYARC’s Web Archive collecting initiative, please see our Frequently Asked Questions as well as this interview featured at Archive-It. We encourage you to help expand the NYARC Web Archive Collections by nominating a website using our online nomination form.

Screenshot of a page from the NYARC Web Archive collections featuring information about a recent exhibition at Pace Gallery, New York.

Screenshot of NYARC Web Archive collections 

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