The VDB operates a number of programs that support its mission:
The VDB Collections represent contemporary culture and artistic excellence in the use of the video medium, and are made available to museums and galleries, educators, cultural institutions and their audiences through an extensive distribution program. VDB works to develop audiences for artists' video and media art, and to make titles from the collections available and accessible through a far-reaching promotional strategy.
A variety of licenses are extended to those wishing to exhibit video art titles from the Collections, including rental and purchase for classroom, library, cultural center and cinema screenings, and purchase of archival quality formats for institutions such as museums, galleries and private collectors.
In contrast to the gallery model of the "limited edition", titles from the VDB collections are made available in unlimited editions; there is no limit to the number of copies that VDB can distribute from a title held in the archives. VDB operates this model in order that access to the artwork can be increased, and that the artists' work can be viewed and studied widely. It is relatively inexpensive to rent or purchase work from the VDB collections, and more than half of all income generated is passed directly to the artists' in the form of artist royalty payments. Artists also receive detailed screening records, and the exposure from screenings and exhibitions of their work can result in significant opportunities for career enhancement.
The VDB Collections are housed in an extensive archive where the original master provided by the artist at the time of acquisition is stored, as well as distribution sub-masters. Original masters are on many different formats including one-inch open reel, half-inch open reel, ¾-inch U-matic, Betacam SP, Mini DV, Digital Betacam, DV, HDCam and others. Artists' masters and sub-masters are cataloged and stored in a temperature-controlled, low-humidity environment. As a result, artists' have long-term access to copies of their work that can often be in better condition than their own copies, a considerable benefit.
VDB is committed to ensuring that access to the collections remains viable and is assured for future generations. As a result we are engaged in a project that will eventually see all analogue titles in the collection transferred to uncompressed or "lossless" digital video files, thus ensuring that the digital archive can be made available for online distribution. Other ongoing improvements are allowing us to work with newer digital formats such as High-Definition Video (HD).
Videotape is a fragile medium subject to degradation and picture and sound quality loss, and many of the titles in the VDB archive are unique and irreplaceable. VDB is committed to safeguarding the history of the video art form, and since the mid-1980s has worked to preserve important video art works to more durable archival quality formats, either in house, or in collaboration with experts in the field. As titles from the Collections are restored, newly-preserved copies are made available through VDB's distribution program, ensuring that audiences will continue to have access to the highest-quality versions of important works from the Collections well into the future.
The VDB is currently engaged in a long-term project to preserve and digitize the Videofreex Archive, gathered from various attics and cellars of former members of the collective in the early 2000s, and now housed at the VDB. Consisting of 1,500+ tapes on various early formats, this unique collection from the first U.S. video collective to operate a pirate TV station documents numerous historically important events and counter cultural movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While the original tapes are now catalogued and entered into the VDB preservation database, the majority cannot be viewed or preserved in house because we do not have the machines that will play the various obsolete tape formats they are on. Rather, the tapes have to be sent out to a specialized video facility such as BAVC in San Francisco to be restored before a new preserved tape can be made. Once restored, titles are made available through the VDB distribution program.
In addition to single titles, the VDB has been a leader in producing Box Sets and Compilations, featuring single and multi-artist compilations, as well as themed and curated programs. These enable VDB to provide audiences with a comprehensive overview of an artist's video work, or a succinct illustration of a particular theme or cultural movement.
The VDB commissions essays to accompany these collections, written by a wide range of scholars and media arts commentators, which serve to contextualize the work within a wider artistic framework, making them essential pedagogical tools for those working in media arts education. To date essays have been commissioned from the following:
Video Data Bank is deeply involved in the media arts community locally, nationally and internationally, and we seek out collaborations with individuals and organizations that will support our mission to increase appreciation for video art and artists.
The VDB has a long history of exhibiting video and media art, and regularly collaborates with festivals, cultural centers, media arts conferences and screening venues worldwide. VDB regularly participates in ongoing activities and events nationally and internationally to further knowledge of video art and the VDB collections, including:
Panels and discussions
Juries and Critique panels
Talks and presentations
Field wide symposia and conferences
Art fair booths
More on VDB events can be found in the News section.
Since 2001, VDB has participated in an ongoing collaboration with Conversations at the Edge, a program of the Film, Video, New Media and Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which takes place at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. The VDB has bought a number of important video and media artists to the attention of local audiences through this program, including:
TVTV (co-founder Allen Rucker and member Tom Weinberg)
Videofreex (Skip Blumberg & Nancy Cain)
The Video Data Bank is located at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Our media center includes a production and non-linear editing facility; an archival storage room for the storage of preserved videotapes; and a screening room that is open to the public by appointment.
The VDB Screening Room is a comfortable facility where curators, researchers, scholars, students and the general public can view works from the collections for free by appointment.