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Whitney Museum Successfully Preserves a Classic Piece of Net Art


06.10.13 Kyle Petreycik

Many consider The World’s First Collaborative Sentence by Douglas Davis to be a classic piece of internet art. It was created in the early nineties and allows any of its participants to contribute to a never-ending sentence.

Recently, the piece has been restored and adapted to run on today’s computers. The piece is ongoing, to this day.

Much like older paintings or sculptures, digital artworks like this require a form of maintenance. The primary issue with this type of work is the advancements of technology causing older pieces to become obsolete. Thankfully, the Whitney Museum of American Art is addressing and working to resolve this issue, starting with this successful conservation:



Since 1994, the piece had been active for over six years, gaining an impressive 200,000 contributors, especially in the early days of the internet. Later, the piece became outdated when its code stopped working due to numerous technological advances and merely succeeded in crashing many modern browsers.

The piece has been restored in two ways: (1) Restoring the piece to its original functioning state and (2) preserving a “historic” version which leaves much of the original code untouched yet but keeps the piece as an “as is” — a master copy, errors and all.