Here Today, Here Tomorrow: An Interview with CARTA Members

December 19th, 2023

by the Community Programs team

Preservation of art resources on the web requires a team effort to achieve comprehensive coverage of art practice today for art historical research in the future. CARTA (Collaborative ART Archive) members embody the power of collaborative approaches to web archiving, achieving collection scale that would not be possible individually, leveraging complementary resources and expertise. In this post, we interview CARTA members Roger Lawson, Executive Librarian, National Gallery of Art, Megan Sallabedra, Digital Collection Development Librarian, Getty Research Institute, and Heather Slania, Director of Decker Library, Maryland Institute College of Art, to learn more about their participation in the program.

Why did you join CARTA?

Roger: We were familiar with the work of New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) since 2006 but didn’t have the resources within the National Gallery of Art (NGA) to take on the task of web archiving ourselves. We were interested from the beginning in a collaborative model and infrastructure that a single institution might not be able to support. 

Megan: There has been strong support from the Getty Research Institute (GRI) Library since CARTA was proposed. It was natural for us to be involved as a contributing institution given our support for similar consortial efforts.

Heather: My journey towards web archiving started over a decade ago at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where I first recognized the pressing need to preserve internet art (a genre with significant contributions from women artists). The process of web archiving, though worthwhile, was not without challenges. Websites were complicated to archive, and there was a vast amount of material to collect. Because of this, a call for collaboration was the conclusion of my article, “Online Art Ephemera: Web Archiving at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.” I wrote “The recent past is quickly disappearing, difficult to capture, and of enormous size. To save this increasingly important documentation of the art world, art librarians and archivists, web developers, arts institutions, and artists need to work together.” Joining CARTA was a natural progression for me. It represented an opportunity to continue vital web-archiving work at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where CARTA’s collaborative and resource-sharing approach now mitigates the constraints of not having a dedicated web archivist.

What is your collection focus?

Roger: Auction catalogs are disappearing in print, and we did not want to have gaps in the collection. We were also able to utilize this initiative as part of the redesigned mission of the NGA to collect information about artists, art galleries, and arts organizations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. We have been contributing nominations since August 2021. 

We also hosted a web archiving datathon in July 2023. This was very useful to learn about other data gathering applications like ARCH at the Internet Archive. NGA hired a new Chief Information Officer this spring, and we have been ramping up resources for analyzing our own collection data as well as that of other library collections. This was good timing to be involved with CARTA and accelerate our efforts to contribute this information to a wider art community. 

Megan: I have been primarily focused on Southern California artists and organizations. These are our institution’s collecting priorities and it’s what we know. In addition to my own knowledge, I rely on input from colleagues. I’m incredibly fortunate to work for an institution with a great amount of expertise.

Each quarter, I focus on a particular topic or theme or it would otherwise be too expansive. Some themes I have focused on so far include art writing/publishing, arts education, Southern California desert art sites, alternative art fairs, and art spaces based in domestic settings. For my own methodology, I keep a running list of suggestions I receive or organizations that I come across. Each quarter as I’m considering nominations, I prioritize based on a specific topic that I’ve defined ahead of time or a theme emerges as I’m reviewing my nomination list. I try to prioritize the most at-risk sites. Some recent captures have included the Las Fotos Project, which has a mission to elevate the voices of teenage girls and gender expansive youth from communities of color in Los Angeles through photography. Golden Spike Press is a collaborative publishing project founded and based at CalArts that specializes in artists’ books and multiples produced on risograph. The Black Image Center is a collective group of young black photographers in Los Angeles. These are just a few nominations that we’ve archived recently.

Heather: Our focus at MICA is on archiving the diverse and vibrant art scene of Baltimore, aiming to preserve the rich contributions of artists for future generations. Websites include MICA alums like TT The Artist and significant local events such as Artscape. We also prioritize emerging and historically underrepresented artists, like those represented by the Black Artist Research Space (BARS), ensuring a broader and more inclusive historical record. Furthermore, we explore how artists utilize the web as a creative medium. A prime example is the interactive companion to the Baltimore-based experimental film “All Light, Everywhere.” This project not only preserves embedded text, video, and audio but also the unique interactive experience, making it an invaluable resource for both current educational use and future research.

Why participate in CARTA?

Megan: One of the most rewarding aspects of participation in CARTA is being part of the larger effort where we are giving context to the web materials we are preserving locally and hopefully finding new connections across all of the communities and projects that are being preserved by other institutions.

Heather: Joining CARTA is vital for institutions of all sizes for several reasons:

  • Technical Expertise: CARTA provides skilled web archivists, crucial for effective and accurate archiving.
  • Coverage: With its diverse membership, CARTA ensures comprehensive preservation of online art information across various genres and styles.
  • Efficiency: The collaborative effort within CARTA streamlines the archiving process, eliminating redundant work and saving valuable time.
  • Budget-Friendly: Especially for smaller institutions, CARTA offers a cost-effective solution, negating the need for dedicated web archivists.
  • Diversity: CARTA’s approach enhances the representation of various artists and art forms, ensuring a diverse and inclusive archival record.
  • Centralized Research Portal: CARTA simplifies research by providing a unified, accessible portal for web-based art information.
  • Global Vision: While initially focused on the U.S. and Canada, CARTA aims to expand globally, bringing a more comprehensive range of international art perspectives.

CARTA is transformative in the realm of preserving web-based art history. Its collaborative nature is vital for managing the vast and interconnected art world. I strongly encourage large and small institutions to join this essential endeavor. By contributing to CARTA, you are preserving art information and ensuring that future generations have a rich and diverse understanding of today’s art landscape.


If you want to learn more about joining CARTA, please reach out to us at