Museology Master of Arts Program

November 13, 2019

Preservation of Digital Motion Pictures in Museums

Thesis by John Ford (2019)

Since the turn of the 20th century, motion pictures have been a vital piece of cultural heritage. Over the last 30 years, digital formats have become increasingly popular for the production and storage of motion pictures. Digital technologies have been effective for production of motion pictures but have caused many problems for those charged with their preservation. This has become abundantly prevalent in museums that have traditionally had a collection of film and analog tape and are now moving towards digital collections. The purpose of this research was to understand what is being done in museums when it comes to the long-term preservation of digital motion picture collections and what challenges museum collections professionals are facing. This qualitative descriptive study used semi-structured interviews with museum professionals involved with preserving digital motion pictures. Collections staff from six museums in the Pacific Northwest region, that had a collection of film, analog tape and digital motion pictures were interviewed. Results show that despite differences in collection size and scope, museums are struggling to keep up with digital preservation standards. A lack of resources and constantly shifting technology were cited by most museum professionals as prevalent reasons that museums are falling behind in this area. Museum professionals did have some ways to combat these problems, including using the expertise of local resources as well as trying to obtain funding to help with a lack of resources. However, museums cannot control new technology, and until something changes, most museums will continue to struggle to preserve digital motion pictures for some time to come.

Keywords: Class of 2019, digital, motion picture, museum, preservation, museum studies, pacific rim studies, museology


Ford, J., O’Donnell, Wilson, & Ong, Angelina. (2019). Preservation of digital motion pictures in museums. Seattle]: University of Washington.