PIG: TRANSFER Data Trust — peer-to-peer art conservation


Ryan Betts, Andy Vivash


A peer-to-peer network for digital art conservation, ensuring a robust and distributed approach to preserving the artworks and ensuring their accessibility across generations. This will be in the form of artist-owned in-studio archival nodes that simplify the process of documentation for art conservation practices.


What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

Inventory management & art conservation for digital works: The archival of process documentation and final outputs, with the aim of long-term art conservation.

A working prototype of inventory management at https://transfer-trust.fission.app already serves TRANSFER gallery’s exhibition catalogs, allowing collectors to make offers on works. It leverages FOSS software originally developed by Fission atop the open protocols IPFS, UCAN and WNFS.

It does not yet support archival and conservation.

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

Archival for art conservation is a point of friction for both digital artists and conservation teams.

Emerging decentralized technologies present an opportunity for artists to efficiently pool resources and time-bank expertise from specialists in various fields.

We’ll implement a decentralized data storage network in the studios of TRANSFER Gallery artists, so that their work is sufficiently and redundantly archived, and ready to be adopted into art conservation workflows.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

Expert interviews with artists and archival practitioners to identify the specific digital conservation pain-points.

User testing of iterative prototypes to gauge potential effectiveness of design interventions.

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

Phase 1 (May-June) - Discovery

  • Interface Prototypes: We will produce a series of prototypes tested with artists and conservators to assess the fitness of the archival interface.
  • Node Prototypes: Testing and development of the Data Trust software on the in-studio node hardware.

Phase 2 (July-August) - Pilot

  • Node Release Candidate: We’ll work out final bugs to ensure the nodes are ready to be setup and run in the artists’ studios.
  • In-Studio Installations: Support the installation and use of nodes in the artists’ studios for the 2-week pilot.
  • Debriefs: 1 hour debrief interviews with each of the participants in the study, reviewing what worked, what didn’t, and how that impacted their practice.

How will you field-test your improvement idea?

We’ll run a Pilot in 2 artists’ studios for 2 weeks. And we will test a sample archival output hand-off with one representative of an art conservation team.

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?

Institutional Perspective

  • Kelani Nichole, Founder, TRANSFER Gallery
  • Regina Harsanyi, Curator, Museum of the Moving Image

Artist Perspective

  • Carla Gannis
  • Lorna Mills
  • Huntrezz Janos


  • Stef Magdalinski - Filecoin Foundation
  • Brooklyn Zelenka - Protocol Engineer (WNFS, UCAN)

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

Prototype of a toolkit for artists to host, enabling a self-owned system for art management:

  1. Documentation supporting self-setup and maintenance of the archival nodes
  2. An open-source code repository for the archival node software
  3. A social contract, detailing the obligations and responsibilities of participants in the Trust
  4. A case study of the initial pilot findings


TRANSFER Gallery also has planned events and programs in Miami, NYC, and SF to share the development process and engage the community. We will support those events with workshops showing people how to setup TRANSFER Data Trust nodes on their own machines, and collect interest for the next expanded pilot.

What is the success vision for your idea?


12 Artists effortlessly archiving each others’ works — from process all the way through to the final artifact, with easy 1-click output of artifacts optimized to support standard art conservation practices.

Longer Term:

TRANSFER Data Trust as a decentralized artist-owned archive and cooperative value exchange network — a shift in the TRANSFER gallery’s operations representing an ‘Exit to Community’ inspired by the Media Economics Design Lab at the University of Boulder.

The final vision is an automated, non-profit cooperative trust model that integrates the perpetual purpose artist trust with cooperative organizational structures. The Trust employs modern technological practices such as encryption, object capabilities and decentralized storage to facilitate efficient management and accrue value in a new way for experimental media artists.

Read more here: DATA TRUST | TRANSFER.